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.”