Felicitating the Judiciary

The High Court has rendered judgment on Bhutan’s first constitutional case. The esteemed Court ruled that the taxes imposed by the government earlier this year are unlawful, and ordered the government to refund those taxes. The Court also issued an injunction preventing the government from raising taxes without the Parliament’s approval.

The High Court’s landmark verdict has been hailed as a victory for the opposition party. And the opposition has received numerous congratulatory messages.

We are duly humbled. And grateful for the good wishes.

But, the felicitations are misguided.

The Court’s verdict, in fact, is not a victory for the opposition party. Nor is it a loss for the government. We must see the verdict for what it is: the High Court’s interpretation (through considerable hard work and expertise, no doubt) of the Constitution. And that interpretation is not yet binding – it can still be appealed to the Supreme Court.

But regardless of whether the High Court’s verdict is eventually upheld, revised or reversed, and regardless of whether existing laws are amended or not, what will now emerge is a clear understanding of how taxes can be raised. And that understanding will be good for all the parties involved – the government, the ruling party, the opposition, the National Council, and, most importantly, the taxpayer.

At a broader level, the High Court’s verdict is being applauded as evidence of the Judiciary’s independence and, therefore, a healthy democracy. Obviously, the verdict is important for the case. But what’s much more important are the democratic checks and balances that were set in motion almost three months ago when the High Court accepted and started considering the Constitutional Case.

So regardless of the eventual verdict, felicitations are really due to the Judiciary.

 

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  1. Hon OL,

    the verdict as u said is not still final. it can happen in any ways. we are with you for the verdict passed as of now. incase govt appeal to the next hiher court and the verdict comes out as vice versa, we all have to prepared not to blame as well. As u said, its not about loosing and wining, lets not celebrate the victory either in direct or indirect ways…do not entertain any congratulatory messages….dpt did not celebrate their lanslide victory, they were disciplined and humbled that time….Cheers OL

  2. DorjiDrolo says:

    Irrespective of the final outcome, the verdict of the High Court sets the right tone for a vibrant democracy. The Supreme Court will definitely uphold the verdict, if the government plans to appeal there.

    One clarification – the case is not about the opposition opposing the taxation. It is about procedures which the government chose to ignore as they took the parliament for granted. This shouldn’t have happened because even if the DPT dominated parliament would vote in favor, procedures must be followed.

    Attempts are being made by the government to spin the case into ‘Opposition trying to oppose everything’. The average Bhutanese public will buy that. Just be careful of this trap, OL.

  3. Well, i guess that government may have overlooked the procedural matter concerning the need to raise tax; but we all know that there is a need to impose or raise tax on goods and services that are not included among the needs of basic decent living. I mean we should find ways to raise tax on such things as vehicles, TVs, cosmetics and other luxuary goods that we can do away with if necessary. Bhutan should build sound domestic revenue base, so that the government can fund basic development needs such as drinking water, road construction, improvement of education and health facilities etc. from domestic source. We can not depend forever on donor assistance. Government is right in raising vehicle tax, but as it is now clear, proper procedure must be followed to do so. I hope the matter can be resolved amicably in the current parliment session.

    Cheers

  4. The verdict is a good message to government that they should follow the procedure properly while implementing reforms….As stated by thinly, i think the government however should revise the tax especially since our country is out of LDC list and increasingly we will have less donors for our developmental activities.

    For this particular case, it a case between two powerful institutions closely watched by media and public, and court has a pressure to deliver a justice and they did it!!! Now, my only wish and hope is, court should deliver similar kind of fair justice when there is a case between powerful and weak, rich and poor, influential and unknown, which are fought out of media and public glare!

  5. I applaud the Opposition for being able to deliver on their mandate of check and balance despite their small presence. Job well done! the question was never on the intent of the tax increase but on the way it was increased. Despite this being very clear, it is sickening to see the government harping on the need for the increase when the question was altogether different! The government trying to draw their own interpretation of a simple question and misguiding the public at large is very sad! I hope the ruling government take this as a lesson to respect the constitution. The ruling government is trying to bulldoze in many things which will negatively affect our aspirations for a vibrant democracy!

  6. Respected Hon’ble OL,

    Congratulations and thank you, on behalf of the generation of Bhutanese now and generations to come. What you (Opposition) did is historic! You (Opposition) have just helped strengthen the Judiciary, the Executive, and the Legislative as democratic institutions. This is truly “…in the interest of democracy” in action.

    The way I see it is that: this is not about Opposition Party (PDP) and Ruling Party (DPT) as people may perceive it. It is about Opposition (Institution) and Government (Institution). Opposition and Government as institutions neither belong to current Opposition Party (PDP) nor to current Ruling Party (DPT). They belong to Bhutan as nation state and its people now and for all times to come. You have done a commendable job to protect both Opposition and Government as institutions. Lyonchhen Jigmi Yoezer Thinley and Dhochhok Lyonpo Tshering Tobgay, both whom I genuinely respect, may come and go or DPT Party and PDP Party may come and go but Opposition and Government must always stay tall and be strengthened as long as we are a democracy.

    You have played a significant role to set “right precedent” to nurture democracy. If nothing else, at least you have created an opportunity to fight people’s perception of “Government is bulldozing, Opposition is crying, and Judiciary is sleeping.”

    Keep the heart in the right place. Keep the focus on the right issue. Think beyond yourself. Bhutan is still in the right hands.

    Wish you well.

    Respects,
    INVISIBLE

  7. Again, no one is saying taxation is wrong, it is the way it has been done that was wrong. Bhutan being in infancy of demecracy, we should make sure that out constitution is protected at all costs no matter what. We thank OL for being strong and looking out for all the Bhutanese people.

    Another wrong with the vehicle taxation system is it is only punishing the poor and the unconnected. According to recent kuensel article, majority of the vechile imported to Bhutan was luzury vehicles which are bought through the quota system. Infact the govermenment managed to collect less than 200,000 taxes from such vehicles. Now tell me, how is that going to help grow tax base.

    Like OL suggested it is time to do away with the quota system. Instead give civil servants lumpsum amount to buy vehicles, that way, we are not denied tax revenue by quota abusers.

  8. I think the suggestion to substitute vehicle quota with lump sum amount paid to eligible civil servants is a reasonable one. The reason civil servants sell vehicle quota is to earn some extra buck for decent living (in many cases)–well, this is the only reason i sold my vehicle quota.

    Cheers

  9. DO IT BUT DO IT THE RIGHT WAY…is the message for ALL.

  10. I respect the verdict and would continue to respect from any court of law. But i will not belive that govt has bulldozed to show off anything, they still have done with good intention and for the interest of the country with fairly in line with the laws of the land.

    what ever, the court has now rulled and things have to remain with it without atleast arguing our professional lawyers, who were placed with the outmost responsibilities. We all have belived with the court and the verdict, and we have to be prepared for doing so even in case another verdict has to be released from supreme court. But one thing which is for sure is people will keep on blaming either government, opposition and perhaps even the lawyers depending upon the verdict, there would not be end to it….thus, atleast me i am fully prepared to go by and accept the verdict from any court on this issue….

  11. Not Importer says:

    I did not buy the car and if I did buy one I would have also joined others in congratulating the OL and MP Damcho Dorji. I agree for the way it was done. More than the benefit of the outcome to those who will receive the money back, it shows an example of how judiciary proceedings take place. I was a little surprised when the verdict about the Jabmi case. It was reported in media that because MP Damcho Dorji did not reach the age of superannuation the clause on Jabmi did not apply. So, now we understand that any Judge who has retired before the superannuation age can be a Jabmi. The Jambi Act was written by the Drangpoens themselves and also interpreted by the same group. But to many outside I am sure that clause interpretation caused some confusion. But legal language as shown in this case, can be interpreted in different ways. In fact there are several stories of how people in the past suffered because many things were not written in detail and Thrimpoens interpreted in their own way.

  12. Wow, what a sensible suggestion if the Government could implement to substitute vehicle quota with lump sum amount for those who intend to sell anyway.
    Let me put simple calculation below..
    Tax exempted amount……..800,000.00
    Existing selling price of quota by a civil servant…..50,000¬100,000.00
    The actual tax on the exempted amount without considering the latest revision is thirty five percent which amounts to 0.35 times 800,000=280,000.00
    So, even if the Government pays 100000 to privileged civil servant in place of quota 180000 would be recovered from the real importer of the vehicle.
    Is anybody listening?

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