NC Chairperson directs committee to review Sections 11 and 31 of Civil Service Reform Bill of Bhutan

The Chairperson of National Council (NC) directed the Legislative Committee of the House to review Sections 11 and 31 of the Civil Service Reform Bill of Bhutan 2022. The Bill was discussed as an Urgent Bill.

The MP from Tsirang, Dhan Kumar Sunwar, the chairperson of the Legislative Committee of NC presented the Bill in the House for deliberation.

These Sections of the Bill were asked to be reviewed after MPs raised concerns.

The National Assembly amended 8 sections out of which the Committee amended 3 sections and repealed one section from the original bill. While the House accepted most of the recommendations proposed by the Committee, two sections (8 and 11) were reverted back to the Committee for re-deliberation.

Some of the Members also pointed out that sections 9 and 11 regarding naming and renaming of ministries were inconsistent and questioned if the sections could be made in line with the Constitution or other Acts.

The MP of Gasa, Dorji Khandu pointed out that Section 11 of Civil Service Reform Bill 2022 contradicts with Article 20 of the Constitution.

Article 20, The Executive, Section 2 states, “The Executive Power shall be vested in the Lhengye Zhungtshog which shall consist of the Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. The number of Ministers shall be determined by the number of Ministries required to provide efficient and good governance. Creation of an additional ministry or reduction of any ministry shall be approved by Parliament. Ministries shall not be created for the purpose only of appointing Ministers.”

The MP of Chukha, Sangay Dorji also raised the concern that if the particular section is accepted, there would be risk of politicizing and RCSC may not be in convenient position to work.

Section 11 of the Civil Service Reform Bill 2022 amended by National Assembly states, “The Lhengye Zhungtshog may rename the ministries in consultation with the Royal Civil Service Commission.” It was accepted by the Legislative Committee.

The Committee clarified that an existing legislation passed by the Parliament empowered the Lhengye Zhungtshog to name the ministries with the recommendation of the Royal Civil Service Commission.

MP of Trashigang, Lhatu said that there is no inconvenience in empowering little and working while the MP of Bumthang Nima sorted for middle path, notwithstanding the section.

 MP of Lhuentse Tempa Dorji clarified that the acceptance of amendment would further make convenient to work. 

Few Members were of the opinion that Section 31 which was repealed by the Committee should be retained.

The amended Section 31 of the Bill states, “The Office of the Attorney General shall compound petty offences in accordance with the compounding rules endorsed by Lhengye Zhungtshog,” is omitted by the Committee. Some of the MPs shared that there would be interest of conflict while some supported the NA’s Amendment.

The MP of Samtse Tirtha Man Rai said that empowering little power to OAG is acceptable and supported the amendment of NA which was also supported by the MP of Haa, Ugyen Namgay.

However, the MP of Gasa Dorji Khandu supported the Legislative Committee’s repeal. He said that it creates room for government to overlook executive body while ‘petty offences’ are not specified. 

The Committee clarified that the repealed section does not have any connection with the reform initiatives and would create many problems, including the overhauling of the entire legal system. The Committee also pointed out that only rich people would be able to pay the fine in lieu of imprisonment and only those who cannot pay would be undergoing the imprisonment.

The Eminent Member Ugyen Tshering, who is also member of the Committee clarified that Section 31 is neither related to other sections nor to civil service transformation. Therefore, “this particular Section is repealed,” the Member said.

The Prime Minister introduced the Civil Service Reform Bill of Bhutan 2022 to the House on 16 November. The Prime Minister said that the reform initiative is to restructure and reorganize the existing agencies for effective and efficient civil service.

The Bill will impact around 46 legislations ranging from minor name changes to repealing certain provisions including change in mandates to align with the reform according to the Prime Minister informing the House that the Civil Service Reform Bill is a standalone ‘Omnibus’ bill to address the requirements through restructuring of agencies.

The Bill will be deliberated in the next reading for adoption.

Sangay Rabten from Thimphu