Addressing the 77th Group of RBA Recruits Attestation Parade this week, His Majesty reminded the nation and in particular public servants that “as we look to the future, our collective goal is to safeguard our sovereignty and ensure the peace and security of our people and nation for all times to come. This includes legal security, cyber security, financial security, economic security, food security, and critical infrastructure security such as communications, power, etc.”

The message was clear and loud. What remains now is how can we translate His Majesty’s wisdom into actual results. Legal Security is one of the core messages this time. While there are many definitions of legal security, in the present context, legal security may be defined as a citizen’s safety, social security, and justice of the people.  Legal security touches the lives of every common citizen particularly those from poor sections of the society. The purpose of legal security is to develop effective legislation, uphold the rule of law and ensure justice to citizens. Thus, legal security forms the heart of Gross National Happiness through which social cohesion, peace, just and fair society can be maintained.

His Majesty’s visions are already embedded in our constitution. Article 7 Section 1 lays down the foundations of legal security. It guarantees that “all persons shall have the right to life, liberty and security of person and shall not be deprived of such rights except in accordance with the due process of law.”  There were reports of deprivation of a person’s liberty without following due process, arrest without warrant, common citizen imprisoned for civil debts under value-based sentencing and some even spend months and years under contempt of court for failure to clear their debts. Such reports though not formal merit our attention as it contradicts the visions of His Majesty’s vision of legal security because such measures undermine the rule of law.    

Article 21 Section 1 of the Constitution mandates the judiciary to “safeguard, uphold, and administer Justice fairly and independently without fear, favour, or undue delay in accordance with the Rule of Law to inspire trust and confidence and to enhance access to justice.” While there are no concrete data, going by the informal reports and social media, the judiciary still does no command adequate confidence among the public. There is also a perception that the justice sector still has “risks of intimidation, corruption, weak ethics, favouritism and nepotism among others.”  Article 9 Section 5 of the Constitution requires the state to “provide justice through a fair, transparent and expeditious process” on basis of the rule of law.  Article 28 Section 3 mandates the police to “maintain law and order and prevent crime” and security of the people. However, there were reports of law enforcement officers assaulting people in some instances and some compromising the criminal cases. Such reports if true contravenes the basics of due process of law. 

It would not be wrong to state that a lot of public servants including some senior bureaucrats, politicians, political parties, judges, and other officials use such wise wisdom from the throne in refining their speeches and reports without implementing them and justice sector is no exception. It is time we implemented His Majesty’s wisdom in the justice sector to inspire and build trust among the public to ensure strong legal security. Unless we implement, His Majesty’s visions can’t be achieved.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

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