Focus on amending rules to allow withdrawal or deferment of BBIN

In a sign that the Parliament is still trying to resolve the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal Motor vehicles agreement (BBIN) quandary the 4th May Joint Sitting for BBIN was postponed to 15th June.

According to a Member of Parliament (MP) this postponement was decided on after a meeting between the Speaker of the National Assembly, Tshogpon Jigme Zangpo and Chairman of the National Council, Thrizin Sonam Kinga.

The focus has now shifted from the Joint Committee of BBIN, which essentially has no specific report on BBIN to submit due to a lack of consensus in the committee, to the House Committees of both the National Assembly and National Council

This is because the House Committees of both houses will look into the Legislative Rules of Procedure (LROP) for a joint sitting to see if an amendment can be introduced to allow for the withdrawal or deferment of bills like BBIN.

The basis of such change could be that while the National Assembly’s own Rules of Procedure (ROP) allow for withdrawal of bills the National Council’s ROP does not have a similar clause.

The amended LROP, therefore, could provide a harmonious position of both the houses for joint sittings so that bills like the BBIN can be withdrawn or deferred.

The joint sitting of the Parliament had deferred the ratification of the European Investment bank in July 2016 as a onetime measure. A senior official said, “Following that the joint sitting resolved that a common legislative process will have to be revised for joint sittings. It has been in the drafting for a year now with both committees working on it buts since they could not finalize the LROP they have been given additional time.”

The official said that the basis of this LROP would also be to try and seek some kind of consensus in exploring other methods instead of directly putting things to a yes or note vote straightaway in the joint sitting.

The two House Committees had their first meeting on Thursday and according to an MP the members of both houses including the NC members were largely positive about amending the LROP to allow for withdrawal or deferment of BBIN from the joint sitting.

“There is a spirit that something needs to be done by both houses on BBIN in the national interest and that is a good start,” said a MP on the committee.

However, these are still early days and things will become clearer as the two committees meet more and come up with solutions and issues around the LROP.

The House CommitteeS of both houses are essentially made up of the Chairs of the various other committees and mainly tackles issues with regard to its House members.

The NA has 11 members of which eight are the Chairs of various committees and three are from the Opposition while the NC has seven members who are also the Chair of their committees.

Earlier the 12 member joint committee on BBIN failed to arrive on any conclusion on BBIN as a majority of the members mainly from the Opposition and NC did not accept the rebuttal given to the 15 points raised by the NC against BBIN. The joint committee as a result had no consensus and so could not draft any report in favour of or against BBIN.

The next best thing for the government was to withdraw or defer BBIN for the future in order to consult and assure more stakeholders, make any possible changes and get more support. A vote against BBIN in the joint sitting, it is feared, would not only be an embarrassment for the government but would also send the wrong signal to the other three countries Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

In the meantime Bhutan agreed to allow the other three countries to go ahead with BBIN while Bhutan takes its own time with its process.

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