The Social and Cultural Committee of the National Council introduced the Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2020 on 23rd January 2020. The Bill will now repeal the Lhengye Zhungtshog Act of 1999.
Ugyen Namgay, the Vice Chairperson of the committee said that the National Council Act section 2 (7) states that the National Council shall ensure that the government safeguards the interest of the nation and fulfils the aspirations of the people through public review of policies and issues, bills and other legislation, and scrutiny of state functions.
The National Council initiated legislative drafting of the Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2020 for the Members of Lhengye Zhungtshog.
The Lhengye Zhungtshog Act of 1999 was enacted before the constitution came into force and so it was found that most of the sections in the existing act contradict with the Constitution of Bhutan.
Likewise, National Law Review Taskforce, 2018, found that the Lhengye Zhungtshog Act of Bhutan 1999 redundant and recommended for repeal.
As the highest executive the institution required a separate Act like any other institution for guidance and convenience while executing its power and functions, according to the committee.
While reviewing the Bill, the committee held a consultative meeting with the members of Lhengye Zhungtshog, Cabinet Secretariat, office of the Attorney General and lawyers of the Royal Civil Service Commission on the draft bill to get collective consensus, varying views and suggestions for further improvement of the bill.
The committee’s vice chairperson also reported on the principal objects of the Bill which were to set out procedures for the formation and composition, powers, responsibilities and functions of the Lhengye Zhungtshog including its secretariat, prescribe code of conduct of the Members of the Lhengye Zhungtshog and provide for any matter that is consequential, ancillary or incidental thereto.
The Hon’ble Members of the committee briefly introduced the content of each of the ten chapters of the Bill which comprises of 83 sections.
Following the introduction, the House deliberated on the Bill. The House adopted some of the provisions of the Bill while some were recorded for re-deliberation at committee-level.
The House extensively deliberated on the eligibility and qualification of the Chairperson and Members of the Lhengye Zhungtshog. Some Members stated there is a need of clearer and stricter eligibility criteria for the posts, whereas many were satisfied and supported the committee’s provision keeping in mind the unpredictable nature of elections in general.
MP Thirtha Man Rai from Samtse said that in order to be appointed as Cabinet Minister, there should be additional criteria added in this section particularly on age and work experience.
Dorji Khandu from Gasa said that the section 10 which is eligibility and qualification of cabinet Ministers is the main component of the bill.
He said, “It is important to have comprehensive criteria for cabinet minister because the position of Cabinet minister or cabinet member is very fundamental and if one ministry fails its duty then it will have an impact on the whole country and other 9 ministries.”
In the Eighth sitting, the House continued with the deliberation on the Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill.
Extensively deliberating chapter 24 of the bill on the power, functions and responsibilities of the Lhengye Zhungtshog and in particular its power to institute, oversee or dissolve the Committee of Secretaries, the House assigned the Committee to further discuss the provisions taking into consideration the views of the members who raised their concerns and prepare for the final adoption.