Conflict of interest cited as reason for absence of Jabmi association

Bar association (Jabmi Thuentshog) and Bar Council (Jabmi Tshogdey) which were to be formed in 2009 remain only in name.

According to sections 2 and 14 of the Jabmi Act of Bhutan 2003, there should be a Jabmi Tshogdey and Jabmi Thuentshog but the Jabmi Act was never implemented till now though most Drangpons feel that forming of such an association is a mandatory requirement for Jabmis.

According to the former Attorney General (AG), Rinzin Penjor, the association could not be formed because they did not have enough lawyers back then.

“We have lawyers now but they are all government-employed,” he said.

The AG, Phuntsho Wangdi said that the bar association or council could not materialize since it was unclear whether the lawyers working in the civil service could become members.

“If the lawyers in the civil service were to become members of the association, the issue of conflict of interest may arise concerning private practice,” he said.

Initially it was decided that only private lawyers should be the members of Jabmi Tshogdey but according to Rinzin Penjor, the requirement could not be met because there were only two to three private law firms at the time.

Similarly, the Registrar General of the High Court (HC) feels that there is less number of lawyers who fulfill the conditions stated in chapter 23 of the Jabmi Act.

Ugyen Dorji from UD and Partners Advocate and Consultants said that all lawyers do not fulfill the conditions stated in chapter 23 of Jabmi Act  due to which the bar association has been absent till now.

“There should be more lawyers and a council too,” he said adding that even the clients will be benefit more unlike in the past.

Towards the end of 2008, a number of meetings were held among the private and government lawyers with the then  AG.

The lawyers expressed their doubts on whether government-employed lawyers should be allowed to become members of the council.

Conflict of interest was one of the main reasons cited for inability of lawyers to form the Jabmi Association.

Moreover, according to Shera Lhendup from Sayang Law Chambers, lawyers in the government service are not licensed to practice as they are bureaucrats who should head their own legal section.

“They might however represent their organizations in the courts,” he said.

Shera Lhendup feels the need for a bar council though there are only a few lawyers which does not deem it as important.

“Bar council should be formed to protect our members and we can even charge judges for a bad judgment”, he said.

Bar association also becomes a disciplinary factor for judicial behavior, he added.

“The bar council is mainly to subjugate the lawyer and tell him to behave well in the court,” said Shera Lhendup.

However, the AG said the need and sustainability of such a council or association is doubtful right now.

Today, the license for lawyers to practice in court is issued by the court itself and if the lawyer fails to behave as per set norms, his license is cancelled.

“So the bar council which is composed of lawyers should issue certificates to the lawyers and not the court,” he said.

But the former AG did add that the authorities have acquired land separately for the construction of a bar association office near the office of AG.

“We need funds for it and the government needs to accept our proposal”, said Rinzin Penjor.

Another former AG feels that the Jabmi association is not very important because there are not many practicing lawyers  at present.

“Maybe, we will need it in the future” he said.

However, practicing Jabmis were provided probational certificates as an interim measure.

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