It was learnt that there was only one recommendation from Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC) made on the Annual Report 2019, but Good Governance Committee (GGC) has added four more recommendations during the 5th Parliament Session on 15 June. It was also said that GGC has not discussed a few recommendations from ACC during the Parliament session.
An official from ACC said that based on the Law Review Task Force (LRTF) recommendation,GGC felt that the Act needs to be amended and thenthe proposal was sent to ACC. Since the proposal was only in the tax evasion offences, it is said that ACC restricted their amendment scope to just look at the offences, which is mostly under chapter 4 which covers 34 offences.
The proposal on the amendment on the obstruction of justice provision from the security aspect was also proposed by ACC. It is reported in the ACC’s Annual Report that the staff working for ACC, especially those in investigation,increasingly face various threats by the involved people. It was proposed that the penalty for such acts can be increased from petty misdemeanor to felony, andto provide them with a security unit with assistance from RBP or any other law enforcement agent for the security of the officials working under the investigation. The proposal was not approved by the Parliament.
The LRTF also recommended ACC to be given Human Resources (HR) independence because under the Constitution,ACC is to be treated as an independent body according to section 128, otherwise the Act also says that ACC HR should be independent but since ACC is under Royal Civil Service Commission, it is said that there is contradiction since ACC has to follow the Civil ServantsAct, but GGC did not float the matter in the Parliament.
An official from ACC said that from the list of amendment they have proposed to the Parliament, GGC has dropped the proposal of the ACC’s provision where ACC can prosecute on their own. For instance, the Trongsa case, when the OAG drops a case and if the commission feels that the case has to be looked upon by ACC, then invoking section 128 the case can be taken further whereACC proposed certain change, which GGC dropped.
ACC had alsoproposed for certain specific provision, but GGC felt the sentencing provision, like bribery sentence,“minimum of misdemeanor or value based sentencing, whichever is higher subject to a maximum of the felony of second degree if the value or the mounts involved in the crime exceed the total amount of minimum wage at the time of the crime for a period of 35 years or more”, requiredamendment.
GGC had asked for change on value based sentencing, whichever is higher and struck the rest of the provisionso in all the offences GGC suggested if the quantum will be followed in same way to align with the PCB.
Therefore all the 34 offences is made in uniform saying an offence under this section shall be a misdemeanor or value based sentencing, whichever is higher.
There are a few provisions with petty misdemeanor, felony of fourth degree but GGC has copied and pasted the quantum of misdemeanor which later was changed, said the ACC official.
“Section based on the LRTF recommended toGGC to strike off 61D on tax evasion due to the Jatan Prasad Lal Prasad (JPLP)case but the Jatan Prasad Lal Prasad (JPLP) judgement from the Honorable Supreme Court did not make it necessary. The judgment overruled the law review task force recommendation,which said that as long as a provision doesn’t contradictthe Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan, PCB or Income Tax Act,it can be sublimated.