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Assembly passes pay revision Bill, raises legal issues 

Amid legality matters surrounding the pay hike for the Speaker and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the National Assembly yesterday passed the pay revision Bill.

The economic and finance committee’s proposal to pay the Speaker and Chief Justice more than the ministers and equivalents was an attempt to distinguish the head of three branches of government.

A 13 percent pay hike for the Speaker and Chief Justice was proposed while it is six percent for the Prime Minister, Ministers and other equivalent post holders including the National Council Chairperson.

However, after the endorsement of this section on June 10, the NC Chairperson Tashi Dorji pointed out on his Facebook page that such an endorsement would be illegal.

The parliamentary entitlement Act states that the salary, allowances, benefits and other emoluments of the Speaker, NC chair and Opposition Leader shall be equal to that of Cabinet ministers.

A question also arises on the whether the Speaker should be considered the head of the legislative branch. The Constitution states that the National Assembly and National Council are vested with equal powers on legislative functions.

However, the Speaker presides over the Joint Sitting. While the NC has the mandate to act as the house of review, the National Assembly has the prerogative over money Bill.

 

Finance Minister seeks clarification

No member deliberated the committee’s proposal and NC chair’s concern yesterday. As the Speaker asked the finance minister to propose the Bill for adoption, Lyonpo Namgay Tshering asked whether the house should re-deliberate the proposal to hike the salary for Speaker and Chief Justice by 13 percent.

“We might have overlooked the parliamentary entitlement Act,” he said.

The Speaker clarified that he was in an awkward situation since the discussion began. “I have given lot of thoughts concerning whether I should preside over the discussion or to walk out. But I can’t walk out also, “he said.

“It was with the instinct that the raise is for Speaker of the National Assembly and not for Wangchuk Namgyel. But I would respect the decision of the members whatever it may lead to,” he said. “My conscience is clear.”

However, he said that everyone endorsed it and that none raised the concern on legality including the committee. “But since the committee had a plateful of tasks, such things can happen,” he said.

He said that it is not only inconvenient but also not a good precedence to undo things that were already endorsed. “But there is still  room. It is still a Bill and NC has to pass it,” he said.

The NC, however can only provide recommendation to the Pay revision, which originated as a money Bill. The NC, Speaker said would provide its wisdom over this issue and that there is room for discussion while deliberating the NC’s recommendations.

“I will save my comments and clarification until then,” Tshogpon Wangchuk Namgyel said.

Tshering Dorji 

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