MB Subba  

The Social and Cultural Committee of the National Assembly has proposed significant reforms to the Royal Bhutan Police (Amendment) Bill 2021, including delinking the fire and prison divisions from the police.

The Bill will be deliberated in the winter session of Parliament, which will begin on November 24.

According to members, the proposal is aimed at making the police force professional and compact. The proposals of the committee were discussed in the House’s plenary session held on November 16.

Delinking the two divisions, members said, would entail establishing a department for each of the two divisions. However, members are of the view that the long-term benefits of the move will outweigh the short-term inconveniences.

One of the members of the committee, Ugen Tenzin, said that it was not the primary role and responsibility of the police to provide fire and prison services.

He said that the proposal was as per international practices. “Although the issue was discussed in the past, no concrete decisions were made.”

The proposal is also aimed at promoting separation of the roles of agencies and good governance.

The committee has also proposed doing away with the police’s role as a prosecutory body. Members say that the role of prosecution should be left with the Office of Attorney General (OAG).

The Opposition Leader, Dorji Wangdi, said that it was not the role of police to engage in prosecution and that the committee’s proposal was made as per the provisions of the Constitution.

Citing the Constitution, he said that the role of the police is to maintain law and order, and to prevent crimes.

He said that it is natural for the police to undergo reforms, just like the civil service.

In another major reform, the committee has proposed including non-commissioned police officers and civil officials in the Police Service Board.

The proposal has been made on the grounds that non-commissioned officers who make up a majority of the police personnel needed to be represented on the board.

Chaired by the Additional Chief of Police, the board currently consists of eleven members, all of whom are commissioned officers except the head of the Law and Order Bureau under the current Act.

According to the Bill, the police chief would report to the home secretary instead of the home minister directly.

As per the proposed Bill, the lowest- and highest-ranked police officials would retire at 56 years and 65 years respectively.

The Bill also reinstates the need for the prime minister to recommend the police chief.

Committee members said they held consultations with stakeholders, including officials from the RBP.

Members of Parliament said they are also looking into issues related to police salaries, as they were not covered in the Pay Commission reports in the past.

However, members said that the proposals are being reviewed before a final report is presented in Parliament.

As part of the amendment process, the committee visited prisoners and met with police personnel at Chamgang Central Jail and Dawakha Open Air Prison to get their views and feedback.

The proposed amendments are expected to strengthen the police force and professionalise it. It is said that the current Act was inadequate in addressing the issues faced by the police force.

Edited by Tashi Dema