Politicians or political parties who want to file case(s) against a party or individuals should ensure that the complaint is valid. To be considered valid, an election complaint must include a clear description of the controversy related to the election that is in violation of the electoral laws and specify the grounds for the complaint. The complaint must provide material facts and name the parties, candidates, or individuals against whom the complaint is filed. Additionally, the complaint must be signed by the petitioner, including address and contact details, and must be in writing, covering all the required points outlined in the Election Dispute Settlement Form 1.
To further have an efficient, effective, fair and transparent system to adjudicate election-related offences and to facilitate the settlement of election disputes, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) shall have in place an Election Dispute Settlement System to hear and redress the complaints and grievances relating to elections during the election period. The system and the procedures shall facilitate an efficient, effective, fair and transparent adjudication of election-related offences.
This is in keeping with the Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2008, to, the Election Dispute Settlement Rules and Regulations of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2018 was adopted.
The Commission shall establish Election Dispute Settlement Bodies at two different levels; the Central Election Dispute Settlement Body (CEDSB) at the national level and the Dzongkhag Election Dispute Settlement Body (DEDSB) dzongkhag level.
An Election Dispute Settlement Body shall have the power to summon and enforce the attendance of witnesses, require production of any evidence and requisition any public record from and Court or office or person. An election complaint may be lodged to the Chief Election Commissioner, Chief Election Co-ordinator; National Observer; Micro Observer; or Returning/ Assistant Returning Officer. An election complaint related to performance of newspapers, radio, television stations and Social Media shall be directly lodged to the Media Arbitrator.
If one wants to withdraw a complaint, permission should be sought from the EDSB. The EDSB can grant a request to withdraw a complaint if it is not a criminal offense and both parties consent. If a request is granted, the EDSB will provide a written decision with reasoning, and may require the complainant to pay a specified amount to compensate for any costs incurred by the respondent. The parties involved will also be notified that they cannot file another complaint if it involves the same claims as the withdrawn election complaint.
However, Section 9.9.2 states, “The parties notified that neither shall be entitled to file a subsequent complaint if the cause of action or claims involved in it are same as the withdrawn election complaint.” The Chief Election Commissioner or Chief Election Coordinator will assess an election complaint to determine if it can be dismissed, investigated further, or decided upon with a summary hearing. If dismissed, a decision will be provided within two days. Unresolved cases will be registered in the Case Register and decided upon by the CEDSB or DEDSB. The Legal Services and Dzongkhag Administration will maintain a Case Register under the supervision of the Electoral Board Chairperson. In cases of suspected offences, an investigation can be initiated even without a complaint with the approval of the Chief Election Coordinator and/or Chief Election Commissioner, and reports can be submitted to the Electoral Board for action.
The Investigation Committee shall, on the instruction of the Election Dispute Settlement Bodies carry out the preliminary investigation of the case and investigate and establish the facts for decision of the CEDSB/DEDSB.
An Investigation Committee will investigate complaints upon the direction of the CEDSB/DEDSB and report findings at the case hearing. Witnesses can be interrogated and relevant documents obtained as per the law. The Investigation Committee may receive assistance from Midhey Gothrips as needed. The Investigation Committee will present findings and recommendations to the relevant Bodies. A hearing shall be conducted as scheduled once the Notice has been delivered.
The DEDSB shall appoint an Investigation Committee, as provided under Rule 11, in order to investigate and take action on any complaint made during Parliamentary Elections and Local Government Elections if it views that an election complaint relates to violation of Rules and Regulations, Orders and any other Notifications of the Commission.
The DEDSB shall not delegate any of its powers and functions to the Local Government leaders while a Gup or Mangmi may be co-opted to support the Investigation Committee provided it does not entail conflict of interest as per section 18.1.
The appeal on the decision of the DEDSB shall be with the CEDSB and made within five days from the date of the decision.
Any election petition under the Electoral Laws shall be filed within the Petition Period before the High Court, if it pertains to Parliamentary election; or the concerned Dzongkhag Court if it pertains to the Local Government elections.
Any complaints received during the non-election period shall be addressed to the Chief Election Commissioner. The Commission shall, on receipt of the complaints, appoint an Investigation Committee to take action as per the Electoral Laws.
Sangay Rabten from Thimphu