The impeachment Procedure Bill of Bhutan 2019, for the holders of the constitutional offices, was introduced by National Resources and Environment Committee (NREC) on 30 May in the National Council of Bhutan. The deliberation on the Bill continued till 31 May.
The NREC Head, NC Member Tashi Samdrup, said that the principal objective of the Bill was to achieve the procedure for impeachment of the holders of the constitutional offices incorporating the principles of natural justice, establishing an impeachment investigations committee to conduct a thorough, fair and impartial investigation into allegations against the holders of the constitutional offices, and to provide for any other matter, that is consequential, incidental, or ancillary to impeachment of the holders of the constitutional offices.
The committee informed that of the six institutions invited to discuss the Bill, only four institutions, minus the Supreme Court and High Court, turned up. Therefore, the opinions from the institutions that turned up were included.
There is no procedure prescribed to impeach constitutional post holders till date, therefore, the duty falls on the Parliament’s legislative committee to make a law that contains such procedures. The Bill is to hold constitutional post holders accountable for their responsibilities. It will apply to removal from office of the holders of the constitutional offices in Bhutan by way of impeachment by the Parliament. The chairperson of the committee said that financial support and infrastructure needs were not required for this ‘Cha-yig’.
The holders of the constitutional offices of the Kingdom of Bhutan includes the Chief Justice of Bhutan and the Drangpons of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice and Drangpons of the High Court, Chief Election Commissioner, Auditor General, RCSC Chairperson and the ACC Chairperson.
The Bill has 11 chapters; Preliminary, Holders of the Constitutional Offices, Code of Conduct and Immunity, Impeachment Procedure, Impeachment Investigation Committee, Committee Proceedings, Report and Recommendations, Presiding Officer, Impeachment Proceeding and Miscellaneous.
The NC members heavily deliberated on Chapter Four of the Bill “Impeachment Procedure”, whereupon grounds for impeachment, motion for impeachment, adoption of impeachment motion, procedure in the other house, closing of impeachment motion and suspension of the holder of constitutional office were discussed.
The grounds for impeachment states that in accordance with the constitutional act of Bhutan, a holder of a constitutional office shall be liable to be impeached on the ground of incapacity, incompetence and serious misconduct.
As per impeachment procedures, a member who intends to move a motion for impeachment shall submit a copy of proposed motion to the Speaker of the NA or the Chairperson of NC through the Secretary General of the respective houses together with atleast one third of the total members of either house supporting it in written form, two working days before start of the Parliament session.
Lhuentse NC member said, “If the particular constitutional post holder encounters an accident due to unforeseen circumstances, is already hospitalized and on top of that, if the person is impeached on the grounds of incapacity or incompetence, it cannot only stress out that person, but also the family as a whole so maybe, we need to look at making the leave procedures first, and accordingly a choice to voluntarily resign or compulsorily retire can be imposed.’’
Meanwhile, Punakha NC member added, “To strengthen democracy in our country, constitutional post holders need laws.” The Chukha NC member said, “There is no harm in a person holding constitutional posts being impeached due to health reasons or accidents, but being made to resign due to serious misconduct knowingly needs to be questioned.”
Eminent Member Kesang Chuki Dorjee also added that compulsory retirement is practiced in other countries as well, like in India and USA. When she questioned whether compulsory retirement will be included or not, NC Thrizin replied that every organizations has its own grounds on to which the staff will be compulsorily made to retire.
Most of the NC members also raised a common question about how long is a prolonged sickness as mentioned in the impeachment and if why the term ‘prolonged’ was not mentioned in Dzongkha as well. Trashiyangtse NC replied that diseases can have types and accordingly the sickness will last, whereas some can be a lifetime sickness too.
Haa NC said that section 27 under closing of impeachment motion, which states, “Where the other House does not pass the motion, the matter shall be deemed to be closed”, needs some changes to be made.
Chukha NC also stated that section 25 under procedure in the other house that states, “Where the other house neither passes nor rejects the motion shall be deemed to be passed and the Speaker shall command for the formation of the Impeachment Investigation Committee”, and section 27 under closing impeachment might give rise to controversies.
The house directed the committee to incorporate suggestions made by the members of NC for final deliberation of the Bill.