Rejected

The third session of the Parliament did not pass two bills: the Local Government Bill and the Civil Service Bill. Both the bills are important. So, many people are concerned. And, more than a few people have asked me how the discussions will be continued.

One concerned reader, a Samdrups, was particularly worried about what I wrote in “Parliament rejects civil service bill” and commented: “You are talking as if you are in favour of referendum or making the bill dead!!! I am sure it will be very costly to have referendum and costlier to make these bills dead. The issues, i believe are not that enormous or complicated that it warrants calling for a referendum or requires changing it completely. Referendum should be the last option after exhausting all parliamentary devices! Looks like it is due to limited time to deliberate properly and thrash it out. So, it would be wise to conduct extraordinary session and pass it. I think there is a provision to appeal HM for advice and conduct special session and pass bsuch bills. And i think even the joint sitting/house resolved to conduct special session….now again don’t tell us it is unconstitutional!”

Samdrups’ comment raises three important questions: One, are the bills “dead”? Two, is a referendum a good idea? And three, can a special session re-discuss the bills?

Rejected bills: dead?

The Parliament did not pass the two bills. In other words, the Parliament rejected the two bills. Hence, technically, the bills are dead. Otherwise, the very purpose of voting on the bill would be defeated. In fact, Chapter 20, Section 193 of the National Assembly Act states that: “When a Bill has been passed or has been rejected during a session in any year, no Bill of the same substance may be introduced in the Assembly in that year except by leave of the Assembly.”

So, new bills on the local government or the civil service cannot be introduced in the National Assembly until a year has passed. Unless, that is, the National Assembly specifically allows it.

Referendum: good?

According to Article 34.2(a) of the Constitution, “The Druk Gyalpo may command a National Referendum if, in His opinion, a Bill, which is not passed in a joint sitting of Parliament, is of national importance.” So, even though the joint sitting of the Parliament rejected the two bills, His Majesty the King may command a referendum. Here, as in my earlier entry, I’m only quoting the provisions of the Constitution. It is not correct for me – and, indeed, for any of us – to comment on the appropriateness of such a referendum. That, by Constitution, is His Majesty’s royal prerogative.

Special session: constitutional?

Now, would I consider a special session to re-discuss the two rejected bills unconstitutional? Yes I would, if a special session were to be convened because the “… joint sitting/house resolved to conduct special session”.

But no, I would not consider it unconstitutional, if His Majesty the King were to command a special session to re-discuss the rejected bills. Why? Because Article 2.16(e) of the Constitution declares that “The Druk Gyalpo, in exercise of His Royal Prerogatives, may exercise powers relating to matters which are not provided for under this Constitution or other laws.”

 

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  1. Since, I personally feel that these two bills are very important (perhaps even honorable members felt it same and these bills were treated as “urgent bills”), it should have been passed in the third session only. But unfortunately, it wasn’t. But i was again viewing from the optimistic angle and i was happy when it was decided to hold extraordinary session, of course with the consent from HM.
    And i would like to thank honorable OL for clarifying and educating us on various provisions of the constitution and NA act. I think we are in same line…..
    Rejected bills: Dead?— As you clarified “unless, that is, the NA specifically allows”….i think most of the member directly or indirectly agreed to allow the bill to be reintroduced when they agreed to have extraordinary session. So, i think it is not yet completely dead!
    Referendum: i was not questioning the prerogative of HM and nor i will ever do that….i just raised my opinion that it would be too costly to have referendum for such issues which is not that big or complicated. It could be amicably resolved. In a democratic setup, i am sure every individual have a right to raise their opinions and of course it could be either right or wrong.
    Special session: constitutional?…..please correct me if i am wrong, i think special/extraordinary session cannot be held without consent from HM. In this case, i think the speaker and chairman will appeal HM to conduct special session to discuss particularly these two bills. So, if HM consents to have special session then HM is approving to discuss these two bills, so it is absolutely constitutional. Otherwise there won’t be special session.
    Since honorable OL advocates on healthy debate on important issues, i just raised my humble opinion and it should not be construed as disrespect to honorable OL or your views.

    • Dear Samdrups: Thank you for keeping this important and difficult discussion alive.

      I like your optimism. I too want the important bills passed as soon as possible. They are important.

      But following proper procedure is also important. Especially in a new democracy. All of us have the sacred responsibility of ensuring that the “rule of law” flourishes in our democratic system.

      The NA clause on introducing a bill with the “same substance” refers to introducing a new bill. Not reintroducing discussions on the rejected bill. Of course, the rejected bill could be introduced as a new bill. But, remember, the system of introducing a new bill–it’s introduced and discussed in one house; then submitted and discussed in the second house. If both houses approve it (by simple majority in each house) the bill is endorsed and submitted to His Majesty the King. If one house endorses it and the other does not, then His Majesty will command a joint sitting. That’s where we were the last time! (you’ll find more of this in Article 13 of the Constitution)

      On extraordinary sessions requiring HM’s command, you are correct.

      Samdrups: I do not see your comments as disrespectful in any way. Instead, I find them very helpful. They make me think. And, at times, think hard. You are obviously willing to participate actively in our democratic process. We need many more “active participants” if our democracy is to succeed.

      If I find your comments helpful, then, it goes without saying, that I find them respectful. Very respectful.

      tshering

  2. The bills needed due considerations. We know they were important ones. And, it took time. Simple. I actually appreciate the hon’ble members taking their time.

    Perhaps, the scheduling of the deliberations and agenda setting were faulty or maybe, what happened were beyond the anticipation of the managers. The milk’s spilled.

    Hon’ble OL, yes, proper procedures are important. Particularly, to set things right for a newly evolving democracy. But we also know that the whole lot of MPs were for an immediate resolutions. The whole country is for it. It got qualified as “urgent” bills in the first place.

    The issue of proper procedures, therefore, holds less weight. Let us govern our procedures.

    I would definitely agree with you if the bills or the agreement to hold an extra-ordinary session was, in any way, even a little bit contentious.

  3. Can the parliament limit the functional powers of an constitutional body given by the Constitution? For example – ACC to investigate corruption, Audit to audit all the books of accounts, ECB to conduct fair election and RCSC as the authority over civil service human resource.

    How these organizations deliver their mandate must be left to the Office concerned. Too much interference through legislation driven by political/cabinet motives could be dangerous.

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