NA agrees to most NC recommendations on the OAG Bill

The chairperson of the Good Governance Committee presented the Office of the Attorney General Bill 2014, for the third reading, in the National Assembly on November 19. The deliberation concluded yesterday and the Bill is proposed to be passed on November 24 in the National Assembly (NA).

The chairperson of the Good Governance Committee, MP of Bongo-Chapcha, Dawa Gyaltshen, said that most of the amendments made by the National Council were approved by the Good Governance Committee, except for changes in a few sections.

As per the recommendation by the Good Governance Committee, the NA resolved on Section 70, and it reads, “Attorney General may be eligible for reappointment, subject to a maximum of two terms.”

The NA also carried a long deliberation on Section 8, which says that the Attorney General, in consultation with the government, may establishment regional offices and other offices in different parts of the country

The MPs suggested that it was very important to strengthen the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) through establishment of department, divisions, sections, and also regional offices.

However, the MPs also pointed out the financial implications of establishing such offices.  They expressed that the Royal Civil Service Commission was the appropriate authority for any such establishment involving human resources.

Some MPs said that there was no need for establishment of regional offices, as the current number of legal professionals, under the office of the Attorney General and in the dzongkhags, are sufficient.

The House resolved that the OAG may establish departments, divisions and sections, as deemed necessary by the Attorney General, in consultation with the Royal Civil Service Commission. The NA also resolved to remove the clause stating the establishment of regional and other offices in different parts of the country.

The House had an extensive deliberation on the Section 16, which states that the OAG shall not represent any private citizen in a civil litigation. Some MPs said that the section should be removed from the Bill as it would do no justice to people who are helpless. The North-Thimphu MP, Kinga Tshering, said poor people who cannot afford to pay for a jabmi (lawyer) during criminal litigation must be helped.The House consequently resolved to retain the section.

The House deliberated on the amendment on a new Section 67(A) (5) by National Council, the section states, “Attorney General has served in the government, public or public private service for a minimum of 15 years.”

Some MPs argued that the minimum years of service for a person to be eligible for appointment as the Attorney General should be 20 years, but many suggested a minimum of 10 years experience, to attract young and energetic professionals. The House resolved on the recommendation of the Good Governance Committee and National Council’s amendment.

According to the NC amendment of Section 69, which states, “The term of the office of the Attorney General shall be five years or until attaining the age of sixty-five years, which is earlier.”  After much deliberation, some MPs said that the Attorney General’s tenure should be determined by the government of the day and should not be fixed at five years. The House endorsed on the recommendation of the Committee

The NA had an extensive deliberation on the new Section 103 (A), proposed by National Council, regarding the filling vacancy. It is proposed as, “If the Attorney General dies, or resigns or otherwise vacates his or her office before the expiry of the term, the new Attorney General shall be appointed for a full five year term.”

The Bardo-Trong MP, Lekey Dorji, said other provisions of the Bill, like Section 69 clearly signifies the tenure of the Attorney General, and therefore, a new section was not required.

As the House could not resolve on the new Section 103(A), therefore, the House put to vote, whereby 10 members voted ‘YES’ for the section to be retained, and 26 members voted ‘NO’, while two members abstained, and therefore, the  NA resolved not to endorse the new section.

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