Joint sitting on NC Bill 2014 does away with 10 year experience requirement

Those committing breach of privileges against NC will get up to a 5 year minimum wage fine

Coming to an agreement on disputed clauses between the two houses on the amendment of National Council (Amendment) Bill 2014, the joint sitting upon the recommendations by the Joint Committee passed the NC Act yesterday.

The houses passed with 59 “yes” votes, two “no” votes and three abstaining. The recommendations were made by the Joint Committee after three meetings. The Joint Committee comprises of 12 members from NA and NC.

One of the most disputed clauses was section 13(e), which says that a NC candidate must possess a minimum of ten years of work experience provided that this shall not apply to the incumbent members. The Joint Committee recommended that this clause will be discussed later in the future whenever the Election Act is amended.

Giving reasons on non inclusion of the clause, the Chairperson of Joint Committee, Chumig-Ura MP, Tshewang Jurmi said article 23, 3(c), of the Constitution states a candidate for an elective office under the constitution shall be a minimum of twenty-five years old.

On this, the Chairperson said that there were doubts and opinions expressed by members, that with 10 years added, the candidate will be 35 years old at the time of election violating the Constitutional provision.

He added that upon consultation with the NC representatives in the Joint Committee, the NC members expressed that there would not be any problem. They justified saying that in the Constitution article 23, 3(e), a candidate for an elective office under the constitution, shall fulfill the necessary educational and other qualifications prescribed in the electoral laws.

Panbang MP, Dorji Wangdi said he would not support the Act, unless the section has been discussed and placed in the Election Act of Bhutan.

The dispute on the section 10(c) was passed by the house as per the NA’s amendments, which says NC shall review implementation of resolutions and laws.

The houses also passed the new section 15(a), which states, a member of NC intending to participate in the next NC elections shall not be required to resign and may contest while in office as per the NC’s amendments.

On this, Panbang MP said that that if NC members can contest in election while in office, all the privileges should be suspended including salary and allowances, for free and fair elections.

On non-partisanship, the Joint Committee recommended a new section before 165 which states that a member of NC shall neither be influenced by any political party in the performance of his/her function nor will he/she campaign for any political party or candidate.

A new section 180 A, says the penalty for breach of privileges by any person under this Act is guilty of an offence and liable to a maximum fine of five years minimum wage.

The Joint Committee deleted the new section introduced in NA and rejected by NC. The section 97(c), says the government may decline to produce a document on the ground that its disclosure would be prejudicial to the safety or interest of the state.

Joint Committee blended the new section 145(a) of the NA’s and NC’s amendment, which now states, “To enable the committees to discharge their functions efficiently and effectively, each committee shall be provided with a Committee Secretary, a Legal Assistant and a Draft person with adequate equipments and befitting office space.”

The Joint Committee also blended the amendment of NC and NA in new section 189(d), which states, to enable the members of the National Council to discharge their functions efficiently and effectively, each member shall be provided with at least one research assistant, adequate supporting staff, equipment and befitting office space.

The Joint Committee deleted the new section 53(a), which says, when the Deputy Chairperson is also unable to preside over sittings of the NC, the Chairperson shall depute the Chairperson of the relevant Committee, or a member as the Acting Chairperson to carry out the responsibilities of the Chairperson of the NC.

The Joint Committee retained the section 54 as per the Act. It states that the Deputy Chairperson presiding over the sittings during the period of the Chairperson’s absence shall enjoy the same powers of Chairperson. He shall also perform the duties of the Chairperson and every such act performed by him shall have the same effect and validity, as if the Chairperson himself had performed the act.

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