Legislation: With the adoption of the Rules of Procedure (RoP) for Treaty Making 2016 by the Cabinet last month, the process of making a treaty and ratification by Parliament have been streamlined.

The RoP was adopted by the 96th cabinet session held on February 13.

The subsidiary legislation empowers the Cabinet to table a treaty in the Parliament as an urgent Bill if the government deems that signing and ratification of the treaty warrants urgent attention. The cabinet can exempt the concerned agency from following the procedures laid down in the RoP.

A treaty to be tabled as an urgent Bill, however, will have to satisfy the requirement laid down in Parliament’s Legislative Rules of Procedure.

The adoption of the procedure comes ahead of the summer Parliament session where the controversial international documents like the transport agreement of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) Framework Agreement (EIBFA) will be redeliberated. While the last Parliament session rejected the BBIN agreement for lack of adequate consultation with stakeholders, the National Council withdrew the EIB framework agreement for sovereignty reasons.

The RoP streamlines the process of assessing the impact and benefits of a treaty or agreement with a foreign government or multi-national agencies. The Cabinet may reject a treaty proposal if it is not in the interest of the nation and the people.

A treaty can be withdrawn in cases like non-compliance or breach of the provisions.

A treaty should be first acceded by the government to be ratified by Parliament. The RoP will be applicable to formulation, negotiation, signing, amendment and implementation of treaties, agreements and other legal instruments.

The document will also be applicable for seeking membership in international organizations.

Where the Cabinet initiates a treaty proposal, it may direct a relevant agency of the government to undertake the necessary processes. However, “Before initiation of any treaty proposal, the agency shall seek political advice and clearance of the foreign ministry,” the procedure states.

The RoP mandates agencies to seek “political advice” and clearance of the foreign ministry and approval of the Cabinet before initiating any legal instruments not subject to ratification.

It also allows the government to withdraw a treaty Bhutan is signatory to. The cabinet may recommend to Parliament for termination, withdrawal or suspension of a treaty in accordance with the provisions set in the treaty.

Upon ratification, the treaty will be the law of the country and national implementation will be carried out in accordance with its provisions. Where national implementation cannot be carried out without domestic legislation, the concerned agency will propose a national implementing legislation.

The agency will also propose amendment of relevant domestic legislation.

The government shall propose for enactment of a domestic legislation before or during ratification of the treaty if national implementation cannot be carried out without domestic legislation.

MB Subba