One question that is increasingly being asked these days is on who will hold the judiciary and judges accountable.
This will soon be answered as the Judiciary led by the High Court Chief Justice Duba Drukpa and other High Court Judges have drafted many rules for Judges and judicial staff on preventing conflict of interest, promotions and assessment of Judges, expediting proceedings etc that all aim to bring about better accountability and performance from Judges and judicial officials.
The High Court CJ said that these rules are based in the Judicial Services Act of 2007 which did not have any rules developed around it. He said the various types of rules which are around a dozen are already drafted and are being reviewed after sharing it with Drangpons for feedback.
The rules will apply for everyone from Ramjams to Drangpons in District and High Courts to Justices in the Supreme Court.
Evaluation and Promotion
CJ Duba said right now once somebody is appointed a judge then there is no mechanism to do an assessment and in doing so fix a criteria for promotion, transfers and accountability.
He said the assessment of judges will be done based on their judgments, application of laws, following precedents, numbers of cases, if a judge has behaved badly etc. He said this assessment can be done by the Royal Judicial Service Council.
With all officials below the Ramjam coming under the RCSC the judiciary is in negotiating with the RCSC to have more say over their careers and evaluation.
Conflict of Interest
Another set of regulations will be on conflict of interest. He said currently the CCPC defines conflict of interest as being very narrow within the family, but it is now comprehensive.
CJ Duba said that conflict cannot be confined only to family but there could be business interests, high degree of familiarity, disputes etc which all needs to be avoided.
He said the rules will also fix accountability if judges conceal their conflict of interest.
“This is important because justice must not only be done but it must also have seen to be done,” said the CJ.
Under these rules judges will have to adjudicate on all cases within one year and provide explanations if they are not able to do so. It will apply to both civil and criminal cases.
Here Judges can also go for e-litigation where litigants can attend hearings online.
Compulsory retirement and demotions
CJ Duba said that the Council compulsorily retired a Ramjam Drangpon for some misuse and also a bench clerk and in the past there have been instances of Judges being demoted. He said these mechanisms are there to enforce accountability.
He said that these rules coming from within the judiciary are to keep up with the changing needs of the society and because the institution cannot remain static. He said it is not in response to any particular incident or pressure.
One of the reforms which is already being initiated is doing away with the full bench appeal of the High Court which becomes an additional layer that is not needed.
The High Court is taking the lead as the Supreme Court is bogged down with around 300 plus cases to review.
He said said once they get the feedback of the Drangpons the rules will be tabled to the Judicial Council and after being endorsed it will be sent to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for final assent after which it will be implemented.
This is all expected to happen soon.
The Council has seven members with the senior most justice of the Supreme Court, the High Court CJ, RG of the SC, High Court RG, two district court Drangpons and one Drangpon Ramjam.
On the court language, CJ Duba said that while Dzongkha is the court language under the CCPC in the case of landmark judgments it can be given in English in addition to Dzongkha.
He said Judges are encouraged to upload important judgments online.