The Civil Liability Bill, the first of its kind, which has 11 chapters consisting of 169 sections, has been endorsed and submitted to the National Assembly (NA) for deliberation in the upcoming winter session.
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 an adequate guidance on the method of calculating the amount of compensation.
The Chairperson of the Legislative Committee, and Tsirang MP, Dhan Kumar Sunwar said there are other Acts, like Labour and Employment Act and Road Safety and Transport Act 1999, Land Act of Bhutan 1979 and Consumer Protection Act, and so on, which have compensation provisions, but there is no comprehensive law.
For instance, if a person is injured in an accident caused by the negligence of the motor driver, and the victim becomes totally disabled, then the victim is compensated with Nu 30,000. And in case of death due to negligence, the victim’s family is only compensated with Nu 20,000.
Under the current Criminal law, the maximum compensation can be claimed is for a maximum for 10 years, which comes to Nu 450,000. For instance, in a fatal stabbing case, the defendant has to compensate Nu 450,000 to the deceased victim.
Now there is a section for death due to negligence in the Civil Liability Bill, which enables the claimant to receive the national maximum wage rate of Nu 125 per day for the period of 21 years, which comes to around Nu 945,000.
The victim will be entitled to the funeral rites expenses for 49 days for seven people, and receive the medical expenses in relation to the injury that resulted in the death.
The NC Chairperson Tashi Dorji said NC has done almost two years of research on the many instances of negligence that have led to many deaths and the poor compensations given to the victims.
To name a few, on 18 July 2019, in Thimphu, a six-year-old boy died and another four-year-old was critically injured when a Hume Pipe rolled over and crushed the small children.
The Hume Pipes were stacked above the road for the on-going sewer construction along the road. The authorities from the Department of Roads, when questioned about the incident, had said, “Engineers, as such, have lots of work including procurement, designing, implementation and monitoring. So, they cannot take up multiple responsibilities of being a safety officer.”
Similarly, on 17 November 2018, a four-year-old drowned in an artificial pond at a private construction site in Changzamtog, Thimphu. The pond which was dug for the construction purpose was left uncovered. In the same year, a drayang owner in Trongsa had employed a minor to work as dancer. The minor was allegedly raped by a government official.
The Liability for Public Authority in the Bill will look into accountability.
If they are not carrying out the work, as they are mandated to do, and if there is any negligence out of it, there are provisions in the Civil Liability Bill to fix accountability.
In particular, the Bill also looks into negligence by health professionals, which the NC Chairperson Tashi Dorji said, through an observation that most of the negligence happens in the hospital sector.
For instance, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in JDWNRH recorded 22 cases of infant deaths in 2019. The parents of the infants have alleged that there was poor hygiene practice, non-usage of hand sanitizers in NICU, and they also alleged that some of the trainees were not professional enough to handle the newborn babies. On the other hand, the hospital was found to have followed all the necessary precautions, and therefore, the hospital was not held accountable for the deaths.
The Bill has a basis to determine whether the concerned agencies are accountable or not, and has a provision for good fate. For instance, if the health professionals have followed the due health and safety protocols and care, even though injuries have happened, the defendant is not held liable, the NC chairperson.
The Bill also places liability on owners for negligence in controlling dangerous domestic animals. If any domestic animal trespasses on other people’s properties and consequently brings harm to them, then the owner of the animal is to be held accountable.
In case of stray dogs, if any stray dog causes harm to anybody, then the government will be liable for the stray animal.
There are also an increasing number of rape cases and molestation cases in the country, therefore, a particular section has been inserted, ‘Vicarious Liability of Institutions for Child Abuse’. The NC Chairperson said, the institutions must be proactive on how to nurture children in schools or in institutions.
The schools or institutions will be held accountable if there is any negligence from their side.
The NC Chairperson also said there might be cases where people can file a complaint or make false allegations to get compensation.
In order to curb that, the Bill has an Offenses and Penalty section. If any person comes with false evidence, then the person is held liable for misdemeanor, which carries 1-3 years of imprisonment.