On 23 May, Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) posted on their Facebook page that Fire and Rescue Division rescued two bulls that fell into an open drain at Motithang. It further said that such open-drain poses danger to not just animals but also humans.

This kind of open drains and potholes are all around the capital. This time it was an animal but in the past this happened to humans too besides countless damage to vehicles. This is a serious negligence and failure of Thromde and other relevant agencies.  The corruption charges pressed by ACC and RAA reports speak volumes about the quality of their work in the city.  They cannot be the agencies with impunity. They have legal duties and moral and ethical responsibilities as a public service agency.

As per Section 202 of the LG Act 2009, these public institutions have a legal obligation to implement, carry out regular monitoring and evaluation and even parliament (S.203) has the duty to review their implementation. Further, Section 204 fixes accountability on all sectors serving within the jurisdiction of a local government.   Though there are no specific law or tortious liabilities in Bhutan, there are other legal provisions. Criminally, these officials or agencies can be charged for negligent homicide under Section 144 in case of a death or other provisions of Penal Code in case of physical injuries. Alternatively, the affected people within the thromde can also file as a Class Action Suit under Section 149 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code.

There are many examples around the world of how such agencies are held accountable. After the September 11 attack, the Wall Street firm Cantor sued American Airlines for their of negligence in “allowing five terrorists to board the plane and crashed into the World Trade Centre killing their employees and demanded $1 billion, after insurance recoveries.”

The House of Lords in Britain unanimously held that the local authorities are liable for “personal safety and health or physical property caused because of failure to supervise and inspect the construction of premises, the building of drainage, etc.”

Similarly, German courts “repeatedly held that the duty of care of highway authorities, owed to highway users” and the  “owner of the container can recover for his damage   from the public authorities because of the local authority responsible for the maintenance of the highway.”

In Australia, they hold the public authorities accountable both under the Common Law principle and Ipp Review when it involves personal injury or death because of the negligent actions of public authorities.

In Bhutan, ECB’s restriction on residents from right to vote for thromde representatives unless one has census under city may have also contributed to thromde officials in ignoring the public interests. These thromde decisions to have accountability only to less than ten thousand voters which is a major flaw in the policy and blow to democracy. Such repeated failures demand our legislature to amend the existing laws or enact laws or review the policies to redress these unending problems and failures of public service agencies. Until such time, these public institutions will remain impunity to their own failures and remain deaf to public grievances.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

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