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On Thursday, eight gewogs in the country went for the election of their local government members mostly Gups due to their audit clearance which should not have happened under the Constitution and the Electoral laws. This caused huge additional public and private resources including additional time for voters. On the other hand, state agencies are even now resorting to public naming of shaming of breach of quarantine to fix accountability. Such trends can set perceptions of the existence of two laws for the same country.

The law is quite clear when it comes to the disqualification of the candidate in any election. For example, Article 23 Section 4 of the Constitution and Section 179 of the Election Act of Bhutan provides clear grounds. This include where “a person shall be disqualified as a candidate or a member holding an elective office under the Constitution if he/she has been accused of a felony in a pending case and the competent Court has taken cognizance and charges have been framed against him/her.” Audit Clearance is merely an administrative issue yet state agencies decided to disqualify the candidate for standing in the election and later cleared. Since the latest election resulted not because of candidates themselves but due to possible wrong disqualification of the responsible agencies, who should be accountable for the loss of the public resources and time in this election?  

During the last National Assembly, the government did not suspend the home minister though ACC wrote to the prime minister to suspend him. Kuensel reported that the prime minister said that “it is not related to the home minister’s current position and that there is no risk to obstruct justice or tamper with information.” In the Trongsa land scam case, the Royal Civil Service Commission suspended the former dzongdag though by then he was transferred as the president of JDWNRH. Compared to these cases, in the case of the Goshing gup, the gup was suspended before his conviction and “Gewog Tshogde of Goshing remained without a gup for three and a half years” seriously affecting the public service delivery.  This is another application of the same law differently for different people in the country by the state agencies.

Similarly, it was established that a few months ago, that “front liners, including police, have no constant supply of PPEs. Frontliners are suspected of breaching protocols. There is no monitoring and accountability to ensure frontliners with different tasks do not mix.”  Many vulnerable areas were found unchecked like along the border walls where goods are exchanged in areas that share proximity to places across the border. Of 71 close circuit cameras monitored by only two people.  How about the accountability of such a breach, which probably caused continued positive cases even when it was locked down for months? Why didn’t the same taskforce did not resort to public naming and shaming of responsible officials as it has caused far more damage than individuals?

It is time that we must apply the laws uniformly to everyone irrespective of whether public servants, institutional leaders, or the public. Otherwise, we will continue to suffer from what His Majesty said on 114th National Day, that due to complacency and corruption, there is a rise in “a popular perception that two laws coexist in the same country.”

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.

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