MPs chose the national law review task force over the legislative committee

Assembly: After much debate, the National Assembly resolved that the Cabinet-instituted national law review taskforce (NLRT) would do the work to harmonise inconsistencies in Acts.

The legislative committee raised 12 legal provisions that resulted from inconsistencies of clauses in various Acts in the country.

Samtse’s Tashicholing MP Ritu Raj Chhetri, while presenting the committee report, said the 12 legal issues should be reviewed by the NLRT.

The 12 issues were determining compensatory damages, issues related to human trafficking, defamation, rape of a child above 12 years of age, crimes committed beyond territorial jurisdiction, offence of unnatural sex, controlled substances, detention, bail issuance, security clearance certification and cooling period under the Election Act.

The House, instead of discussing each of the issues submitted by the legislative committee, had to discuss and decide on who should review and harmonise inconsistencies in the Acts.

While some members of the House, including the chairperson of the legislative committee, stated that the NLRT should conduct the work, others said it’s the legislative committee’s responsibility.

The House also had to decide on whether it would elaborate on the legislative committee’s report or submit it directly to the NLRT. With a show of hands, they decided to submit it directly but also to direct the taskforce to work in accordance to the committee’s recommendation.

South Thimphu MP Yeshey Zimba said it is important to make laws uniform and that the committee should work on it.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi questioned if the NLRT had the authority to harmonise the provisions of the Acts, as only MPs can amend the law.

He said NLRT members are officials from the Office of Attorney General (OAG) and judiciary, who have other responsibilities. “Harmonising the Acts is an important task and it is the legislative committee’s job,” Dorji Wangdi said. “We have so many research officers and we need to work on it.”

Dewathang-Gomdar MP Mingbo Dukpa, who is a member of the committee, said the committee reviewed six Acts.

He said there are only two people in the committee who have law backgrounds. “But since the members of the NLRT are people with legal backgrounds, it is better if the taskforce harmonises the Acts.”

Khar-Yurung MP Zangley Dukpa said the legislative committee should work with NLRT.

He said MPs should not say they do not have legal backgrounds, as their responsibility is to research and have sound knowledge of all laws.

Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said laws should not be amended time and again.

He said some of the recommendations put forward by the committee were there in the 2004 Penal Code but it was amended in 2011.

Bumthang’s Chumey-Ura MP Tshewang Jurme said the House has to recognise the taskforce as Parliament’s taskforce. “If it is just a taskforce formed on the Cabinet’s directives, it will be against Constitution.”

He said the taskforce must submit the recommendations of harmonising the Acts to the House. “If the taskforce is given the authority to amend the laws, MPs have no work.”

Deputy speaker Chimi Dorji said the taskforce would not have authority to amend the laws but they would do the work to harmonise the Acts and the legislative committee would report on the work in the summer session of  Parliament next year.

Meanwhile, the House also endorsed the committee’s proposal to allocate funds to NLRT to have full-time members and provide a specific deadline to complete the task.

Tashi Dema