Questions have surfaced on the legality of the Bhutan Children’s Parliament, which recently held its second session in Thimphu.
National Council Member from Trongsa, Tharchen, has pointed out that BCP constitution should get legalization through the parliament to have legal authority to take out resolutions, demand responses and fix accountability on individuals and agencies.
The MP mentioned that it is totally wrong and inappropriate to assume that signing a BCP document in front of the Speaker and the Chairman has fulfilled its legality. He said that, for any documents to be legalized, it needs deliberation in House, and must get it through the process of the parliament including the Royal ascent upon the approval from the parliament. “I’ve expressed this issue in the genuine interest of the BCP so that its credibility and functions won’t be questioned in the future. We all expect our democratic youth forum to follow legislative process of the nation for its legality,” said the MP.
In response to the issue raised on legality of the BCP, the office of the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) said that the Bhutan Children’s Parliament is established based on the provisions of the Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2008, specifically Sections 35 (b) and 36 (f), which specify the responsibility of the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) to promote public awareness on electoral matters by conducting education and information dissemination program or by any other means and also authorizes the ECB to implement such acts.
However, Sonam Tshering, a lawyer posted on his social network that if BCP was formed with the basis ECB declared, then the formal conduct, formation and election of children’s MPs is for educational purposes on democratic principles and electoral processes only. He said their resolutions and discussions do not hold legal standing for the government to either respond or take actions. Further, he pointed out that most of the members who are below 18 years of age, are not of legal age to take decisions and that their decisions would be void ab initio.
He said that education and decision-making process in such cases are completely two different parameters. Clarifying his argument, he told the paper that as far as his understanding of the Section 35 goes, it imposes duty on the ECB to promote public awareness on electoral matters by conducting education and information dissemination programs or by any other means while Section 35(f) empower the ECB only to enforce the provisions of the Election Act or under other laws. Thus, he said, there are no laws that empower the ECB to establish any institution, which can function parallel to the parliament in anyway.
Therefore, he said ECB may establish BCP for the educational purpose to fulfill its mandates and not otherwise.