House Committees find a way out on BBIN issue

A small issue on the language remains

The House Committee’s of the National Assembly (NA) and National Council (NC) have managed to come up with an important recommendation to amend the Legislative Rules of Procedure (LRoP) which would avoid a vote on the BBIN and instead lead to its ‘dismissal’ by the Speaker.

The Joint House Committee’s proposed amendment is section 57 of the LRoP which says,’ If the Joint Committee is not able to arrive at a consensus, it shall recommend that: a) the disputed bill including words, phrases, sections, or articles already agreed upon by both the houses be voted upon its entirety OR b) the Speaker ‘dismiss’ the Bill from voting and such bill may be reintroduced in future following the due legislative process.

So essentially section 57 (b) means that the joint sitting now does not have to vote against the bill but can simply allow the speaker to dismiss the bill so that it can be brought back at a later date.

The earlier joint committee of both houses on BBIN had failed to reach a consensus on BBIN and so no report was possible.

Earlier with a joint sitting looming there was a meeting between the Speaker of the National Assembly, Tshogpon Jigme Zangpo and Chairman of the National Council, Thrizin Sonam Kinga.

The focus shifted from the Joint Committee of BBIN, to the House Committees of both the National Assembly and National Council to look into the Legislative Rules of Procedure (LROP) to allow for the withdrawal or deferment of bills like BBIN.

Having achieved this important breakthrough the NA House Committee presented the matter to its plenary on Friday. Based on discussions in the plenary the NA House Committee will attempt to get the National Council House Committee to reword ‘dismissal’to ‘deferral.’

Though they are the same things, in essence, according to the members of the House Committee, the Foreign Minister Lyonpo Damchoe Dorji, in the NA plenary session, said that ‘deferral’ would be a better word as ‘dismissal’ could be wrongly interpreted by the other BBIN countries.

A NA member of the House Committee said that the word ‘dismiss’ was put in by the NC House Committee and the NA committee members had largely agreed to it as they wanted the NC’s cooperation to solve the issue.

A senior NC member that the paper talked to said that the NC is yet to have its plenary session on the issue but it would not have any strong position against the word ‘deferral’ as long as the NA can come up with some good arguments and justifications.

He said the NC, however, would not support the word ‘withdrawal’ as a bill that has been deliberated by two houses cannot be withdrawn.

A slight issue that can create some friction is that the Opposition party had initially agreed to the word ‘withdrawal’ only.

A NC plenary and a final meeting between the two house committees are expected to finalize the issue after which the amendments will be done.

Another amendment in section 58 says ‘In the event that the same bill is reintroduced at a later stage following due legislative process by the member in-charge, and the bill reaches the stage of consideration by the Joint Committee, it shall recommend only that the Bill be voted upon its entirety in the events of failure to arrive at a consensus again.’

This means the next time BBIN bill is brought in afresh and deliberated it cannot be withdrawn but will have to be voted on in the joint sitting.

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