Bhutan Law In-Sights — Issue I

Legal Developments in Bhutan

As a professional lawyer, I have a moral responsibility to inform the society on new legal developments in Bhutan. From December 2016, I will write monthly article reflecting the new legal development(s) in Bhutan. Please keep reading!

Parliament in Session 

The 8th Session of the Second Parliament is on-going, and following are few things that has come up:

— Paris Agreement

The National Assembly has ratified the Paris Agreement. This will boost the country’s efforts to combat climate change. It was last reported in the BBS.

— Bhutan Red Cross Bill

The NA also passed the Bhutan Red Cross Society Bill. Red Cross Bill is the humanitarian legislation that will help the public in times of calamities and disasters. The news was reported in the BBS.

— Marriage Act

The NA also discussed on the proposed Marriage Amendment Bill, and later decided to formulate a complete new marriage act citing that the present act is difficult to interpret even for judges and lawyers. See BBS.

The discussion has even prompted in the social media Facebook. The new act however is ready for discussion, says the NA.

— Income Tax Bill

The NA also endorses the Income Tax Bill. The Bill will now waive taxes on interest earned from fixed deposits. Kuensel and BBS reports.

This is a welcoming news for the low and middle income group, yet huge burden for the government. Tax is one of the only sources of revenue for the government. Could have done differently.

— Civil Aviation Bill

The National Council and NA also endorsed Civil Aviation Bill. BBS reports that the Bill mandate the establishment of an aircraft accident investigation unit.

Regional Cooperation Stagnant?

One of the major initiatives of the present PDP government is slapped by the House of Review. BBIN, or the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicle agreement, which was approved by the NA was rejected by the NC. While it is believed that the NC must have respected the concerns of the majority of the people, one argument made by the NC was that the Bhutan is too small to adjust the number of vehicles that might ply through Bhutan. This argument is justified on the environmental perspective. On the one hand, citizen’s are restricted to buy their own vehicle through levy of huge vehicle tax, and on the other hand, permitting the foreign vehicles to ply on the Bhutanese roads will just defeat the very purpose of that restriction. Read more on thethirdpole.net

Government need to convince the people if the agreement is to be endorsed in the joint sitting.

Some Judicial Developments

The month of November was seemingly too busy for the judiciary. The following cases were reported in the media:

— Women Convicted for Murder: The District Court of Mongar has passed down a judgment sentencing a 29 year old women to three years imprisonment for involuntary manslaughter. Source BBS.

Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing of a person.

Similarly, the Paro District Court has convicted a 34-year old woman to 30 years imprisonment for murdering a couple. Source BBS.

— Mistake of fact is not defence!

If you assume that a girl is 18 (major), because she works for Drayang, or that she is physically tall, you are wrong. Please ask her to produce her identity card before you commit any mistake. The court will not appreciate your defence.

The Kuensel reports that the High Court has overruled the District Court judgment and sentenced the two accused for 9 years imprisonment. Read Kuensel.

In that case, the Office of the Attorney General argued that “minor consent is not consent.” If that is to be construed as truthful argument, we need to examine the difference between “statutory rape” and “rape of a child above 12 years of age.” While there is a definite need for the law to change, public would welcome liberal interpretation as well.

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