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The house of review

Yesterday, the National Council held its closing session, the last one of its five-year term that is winding to an end.

As is customary and a solemn tradition of sorts, members offer thanks at the closing of each parliament session to the nation’s guiding institutions and guardian deities.

So was the scene yesterday at council hall. This time the thanksgiving took much longer than usual, more than an hour.

This was expected after all it was the last closing for the first ever elected house of review. For some members it would have been an emotional moment.

Also palpable at the closing was an upbeat mood with most of the members. And the Bhutanese intelligentsia is already reading this as a sign of something good brewing for the councilors.

One could be the National Assembly trying to bring up amending the entitlement bill because the government was considering dissolving six weeks earlier before term end.

Last year the Council tried to make amendments to the entitlement bill particularly on whether parliamentarians should get gratuity if they leave office before completion of five years but the Assembly shot it down.

Now the Assembly was trying to amend the entitlement bill because early dissolution could mean National Assembly members may have to forego gratuity for not completing five years in office.

But the other more significant unconfirmed report doing the rounds is that the Supreme Court, in their interpretation of the Constitution, has indicated that incumbent councilors can re-contest for a seat in the council while still in office and complete their five year term making them eligible to get their gratuity benefits.

Recent speculation on this aspect has largely been fueled by a serving councilor announcing on a social networking site the intention of re-contesting for a seat in the council.

Until now the line “… the National Council will complete its five year term” under section 24 of Article 10 (Parliament) of the Constitution has been generally understood as having a new set of councilors with each new term. The incumbent councilors though have interpreted it as allowing incumbents to re-contest while still in office. Of course those wanting to join political parties would still have to resign.

If there is any truth in the word going round this will come as a shock for the numerous council aspirants that have emerged in the past few months. Many threw their hat in believing a new set of councilors in what the Constitution has deemed with every general election.

What really is the interpretation should be out soon and will once in for all clear the confusion that has hung over the council.

In the end what matters is building an apolitical legislative institution that will serve as a house of review on matters affecting the security and sovereignty of the country.

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