The Zhemgang Dzongkhag Tshogdu’s (DT) resolution to make the national dress mandatory in villages and towns from 9am to 5pm from December 17 has not been implemented, home minister Dawa Gyaltshen said.

At the 34th meet the press session yesterday, lyonpo Dawa Gyaltshen said that the government was in touch with DT members, and that the DT was consulting the people to re-deliberate the issue in its upcoming session.

According to him, the issue was discussed  during the consultation meeting on the 12th Plan in gewogs of Zhemgang. It was found that no proper consultation with the people was carried out before the DT took the decision.

The DT’s decision has meanwhile raised an issue over whether the central government could intervene in a resolution of the local government.

Economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji last month wrote to the Zhemgang dzongdag asking him to file a report on whether DT members had consulted the people of the throm and all eight gewogs in the dzongkhag. The DT’s resolution was passed in October.

“As there is no order from the Royal Government for implementation of decisions affecting the people’s lives on a daily basis, I would like to know if the DT members have consulted with the people in their gewogs, chiwogs and throms,” the economic affairs minister wrote.

The issue has also raised questions on whether the decision of a local government requires an order from the central, endorsing its implementation. The LG Act remains silent on this.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that Bhutanese democracy is young and issues regarding possible overlapping of responsibilities between the local government, central government and Parliament would be sorted out gradually.

Section 50(a) of the LG Act states that the DT shall frame and enforce rules for protecting the health, safety and well being of the people in the dzongkhag.

When asked if the government would intervene in the DT’s decision, the prime minister said, “The government is for protecting the rule of law. It’s not as easy as intervening or not intervening. From one point of view, it was good that the DT came up with such a resolution. However, if it causes any problem, they have the opportunity to solve it.”

There would be more than one interpretations of law, he said, adding that it cannot be resolved immediately.

He was of the view that the judiciary is an appropriate agency to interpret the law regarding the issue. Citing the judgment on the first constitutional case, lyonchhen said that although LG Act stated that local governments could impose taxes, they needed the Parliament’s approval to do so.

Article 22, Section 18(b) of the Constitution states that a local government is entitled to levy, collect, and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls, and fees in accordance with such procedure and subject to limitations as may be provided for by Parliament.

Lyonchhen cited examples of the central government intervening in a local government’s decision. He said that the Paro DT’s decision to close Taktshang to tourists in 2015 was reversed after convincing DT members. He said the DT’s decision had to be reversed because of inconveniences it caused to tour operators.

Similarly, after the Samtse DT in 2013 decided to ban mining activities in the dzongkhag, the economic affairs ministry officials met with DT members. The meeting decided to allow the existing mines to operate, while applications for new mines were not approved.

Section 51(d) of the LG Act states that DT shall issue clearance for the establishment of mines and quarries in accordance with the Mines and Mineral Management Act.

The issue, lyonchhen said, had arisen from interpretation of laws that govern the respective institutions and that it was another opportunity for the parliament, executive and local government to work together and resolve it.

Lyonchhen said the government was looking at the issue as an opportunity to see where the authority of each of the institutions may or may not overlap, and how they can be solved.

“If residents of any dzongkhag feel that their DT has overstepped the authority and that their decisions are not inconformity with the law of the land, they can always take the issue to the judiciary,” he said.

MB Subba