Seven disputed sections in CCPC Bill go to joint sitting

MB Subba

The Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (amendment) Bill will go to a joint sitting, as the two Houses could not agree on seven sections, one of which seeks to change the definition of a police officer.

A new section added by the National Assembly defines officials from the forest department, immigration, customs and other law enforcement agencies as police officers. But despite objections from some members, the House retained the section through a show of hands.

The rationale was that such officials exercise the power of a police officer by the virtue of their work.

The National Council had removed the Section. The re-deliberation on the Bill concluded yesterday in the National Assembly.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor said that officials working with agencies like the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) and the forest department needed to be defined as police officers to address the issues related to implementation of the law.

He said that the new section would make the officials’ roles more effective. “We should have the definition to address the problems that are faced by officials in implementation of law,” he said.

However, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said defining non-police officials as police officers will invite problems in the future during implementation of the Act.

“Agencies like BAFRA, customs and the forest department have their own laws and they function accordingly,” he said.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi also said that the civil and police officers should not be put in the same basket. “Customs, BAFRA and forest officials are not police officers,” he said.

Out of 41 members present, 21 voted yes to retain the new Section through a show of hands. Twenty members voted in favour of removing the section as recommended by the National Council.

The section will be put to vote in a joint sitting.

Section 30 of the current Act allows both the Supreme Court and the High Court to make rules for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of this code. But the National Council proposed an amendment to the Section, stating that only the Supreme Court shall make such rules.

The National Council added a new section, stating that if a person fails to pay the restitution in accordance with the order of the court, the person shall be imprisoned for the number of years calculated based on the minimum wage. The House adopted it.

According to the Bill, besides written deposition by the witness and parties, the court shall maintain electronic record and transcribe the court proceedings. The House accepted this section also.

The House adopted 11 of 19 recommendations from the National Council. Seven disputed sections will be put to vote in the joint sitting.