Civil Liability Bill meets confusion and hesitation in the NA

With various opinions and concerns of the Members on the complexity and the technical nature of the Civil Liability Bill of Bhutan, the National Assembly shifted the session into a plenary for an in-depth deliberation on the topic of Principles of Liabilities in Negligence.

During the plenary session held with the committee members on 25th November 2022, the bill will be further discussed and finalized on Monday. The committee members are discussing thoroughly section by section. There are 169 sections and they almost completed discussing 100 sections of the Civil Liability Bill by Friday.

Deputy Speaker Member of Parliament (MP) Tshencho Wangdi said during the deliberation of the Civil Liability Bill, there was confusion among the members of parliament because the term was too complex and technical which the members feel that will lead to confusion among the general public as well.

The MP said an act should be understandable by all the public and not just for the judiciary.

The Deputy Speaker said, “The Civil Liability Bill is necessary and we should be very careful drafting it. So, therefore, we are taking extra time to do it. The changes have been submitted to committee members and they will review them. Since the discussion is still in process and we cannot say anything right now.”

The deliberation on the Bill will resume on 28th November 2022.

In the National Assembly the overall attitude towards the Bill was not very supportive as MP after MP cutting across party lines got up to say that the bill is either confusing or if there is need for it now.

Meanwhile, the Civil Liability Bill, the first of its kind, which has 11 chapters consisting of 169 sections, had been endorsed by the National Council and submitted to the National Assembly for deliberation.

The Bill is unique in that it is one of very few legislations that gives rights to people and empowers them to hold agencies and organizations accountable for damages done to them and enables them to seek compensation.

The objective of the Bill is to provide a comprehensive legal framework on civil liability, by consolidating the scattered legislative provisions into a single, user-friendly law.

It will also provide adequate guidance on the method of calculating the amount of compensation.

When the Bill was presented in the NC last year by Deputy Chairperson of Legislative Committee, Ugyen Tshering, it was pointed out that that many terrible occurrences of reckless fatalities and grave injuries to victims, as well as loss and damage to public property, have occurred over the years, notably in the recent past.

One example given was in February 2012, when a father and his eight-year-old daughter drowned inside the five-acre sewerage treatment plant in Phuentsholing. Residents of Phuentsholing town blamed and asserted accountability on City Corporation officials for absence of safety measures in place.

In 2018, a Drayang owner in Trongsa had employed a minor to work as a dancer. The minor was allegedly raped by a government official.

 A six-year-old boy died and another four-year-old was critically injured when a Hume pipe rolled over and crushed them in Thimphu on 18 July 2019.

And on 27 April, 2021, the rusted streetlight pole collapsed on a woman’s head and injured her in Changjiji, Thimphu. It was reported that some of the street light poles did not have concrete foundation which is necessary to give proper support and stability to the poles.

In March 2021, a 17-year-old girl was killed by falling metal rods at the Mega Dry Port in Phuentsholing. The victim was a minor. The contractor had not paid the required compensation.

Despite the fact that the harms and injuries suffered were substantial and irreparable, he stated that victims of unethical and reckless wrongdoing have yet to be compensated.

Regardless of the fact that applicable provisions exist for the start of criminal procedures, no criminal charges have been brought to yet to hold responsible individuals, agencies and companies accountable for the wrongs committed, and the victims have not been compensated for their losses.

He said there is lack of or weak implementation and enforcement of the laws by the relevant agencies such as RBP, OAG and the Courts which not only perpetuates complacency amongst citizens and tortfeasors, but also have the tendency to impede people’s respect, trust and confidence in the legal system.

If there are substantial differences between the NA and NC on the bill, then it could head into a joint sitting and if it cannot be resolved there then it could become a Dead Bill.  

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