The joint sitting of Parliament yesterday resolved to defer the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicle agreement that seeks to facilitate seamless cross-border movement of passenger and cargo vehicles in the sub-region.

A 12-member joint parliamentary committee representing the government, the National Council and the Opposition was formed to iron out the differences. However, the committee could not forge a consensus as the government failed to take the Council and the Opposition on board.

Sources said the government remains determined to ratify the agreement. The Council and the Opposition, however, state that the implementation of the BBIN motor vehicle agreement would do more harm than good.

The decision to defer the agreement was made possible by amending the Legislative Rules of Procedure (LRoP) 2011, which restricted either deferral or withdrawal of a disputed Bill.

Section 59A(2) of the recently amended LRoP states, “If the joint committee is not able to arrive at a consensus, it shall recommend that the Speaker defer the Bill from voting and such bill may be reintroduced in future following due legislative process.”

The joint committee’s chairman Ritu Raj Chhetri moved the motion to defer the ratification of the agreement as per Section 59A(2) of the LRoP, 2017.

“Ratification of the agreement had to be deferred because the committee could not come to an agreement,” he said. “The committee could not forge a consensus even after five rounds of meetings.”

One of the committee members and Phuentsholing MP, Rinzin Dorji, said it depends on the next government to decide on re-introducing the Bill. “If the next government reintroduces the Bill, it should be introduced as a new Bill,” he said.

The deferral of the Bill also means that it cannot be re-introduced as a new Bill in the National Assembly and not in a joint sitting. This is the same the procedure that applies to a Bill, which is withdrawn.

An MP said that while it is said that the Bill was deferred, the joint sitting has withdrawn the agreement. According to the LRoP 2011, a disputed Bill cannot be withdrawn and must be put to vote.

A new section was added in the revised LRoP that allows the Parliament to defer the Bill. However, a Bill deferred from a joint sitting cannot be re-introduced in another joint sitting and has to come as a new bill.

Samtse’s Council member Sangay Khandu said that although the government had brought the BBIN motor vehicle agreement with good objectives, concerns remain.

“Since the agreement is a government Bill, it depends on the government when to re-introduce it,” MP Sangay Khandu said. “But the government has to follow due process,” he said, adding that the agreement has to be re-introduced as a new Bill.

The committee had to propose to defer its ratification since the LRoP does not allow withdrawal of a disputed Bill. The government earlier had expressed its willingness to withdraw the agreement from the voting process to avoid it from becoming a dead Bill.

With the Council rejecting the agreement, the National Assembly had submitted the agreement to the Druk Gyalpo last year for Royal Assent for deliberation in a joint sitting.

MB Subba