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The Making of the Constitution

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Article 27
The Anti-Corruption Commission
Corruption is the silent public enemy and a chronic virus that produces poverty and inequality, and endangers civil society. Corruption will undermine Their Majesties’ vision of the unfolding democracy in Bhutan, impede socio-economic development and contribute to instability in future. Corruption is an unrelenting assault against the very foundation of democratic institutions, which hijacks electoral processes, emasculates the rule of law and creates bureaucratic labyrinth for the solicitation of bribes. It is one of the root causes of under-development and poverty. It is antithesis of good governance. It also causes social polarization, lack of respect for human rights, undemocratic practices and the diversion of funds intended for development and essential services. The diversion of scarce resources affects the Government’s ability to provide basic services to its citizens and to encourage sustainable economic, social and political development. His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, decreed that:

“With the rapid pace of economic development in our country, there have been changes in the thinking of the people with the influence of self-interest leading to corrupt practices taking place in both the Government and the private sector. If appropriate steps are not taken now to stop this trend, it will lead to very serious problems in the future, for both the Government and the people, in our country with a very small population. In this regard, it is the responsibility of every Bhutanese to act against corruption in our country.

“At a time when we are establishing parliamentary democracy in the country, it is very important to curb and root out corruption from the very beginning. Therefore, it is imperative to establish the Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission before the adoption of the Constitution and build a strong foundation for the Commission to effectively carry out its functions and responsibilities.

“The Chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission must discharge his or her responsibilities with utmost loyalty and dedication to the Government and the people, unaffected by any consideration for those in positions of power and influence, showing full transparency and no discrimination whatsoever in the line of her work. The Anti-Corruption Commission must fulfill its responsibility of curbing and rooting out corruption through timely and effective checking on private utilization of public funds and persons engaged in unauthorized use of public resources. Towards this end, the Chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission is authorized to carry out investigations on any person in Bhutan, regardless of status or position, in the course of discharging her important responsibilities.” 175

Further, His Majesty stated that:

“It is the responsibility of the officials and the authorities, and the duty of everyone to take full and equal responsibility to eradicate corruption from our country. Corruption encompasses those who take bribe, give bribe and not report to anyone about it. Despite the compassionate nature of Buddhist Bhutanese, corruption does not merit compassion. Corruption has become the root cause for suffering of the people and has even destroyed Governments.”

This Article enshrines the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Commission as an independent constitutional office with the overarching duty to combat and prevent corruption in the Kingdom. It is the vision of His Majesty, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo in having a democracy that enshrines the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, that is responsive to people’s aspirations and needs that enhances transparency and accountability of governance.

His Majesty said,

“How big the challenge will depend on how soon and how strongly we decide to oppose it. Remember, under a democratic system, the rise of corruption and its effects will become rapidly magnified. So there is no room for corruption, not now and not in the future.176   

“The role of the individual is far more important in deciding whether Bhutan will be a country that embraces the values of integrity and honesty or one that accepts corruption and dishonesty. It is not enough to be honest. There is no substitute to living by a simple rule that ‘I will not be corrupt and I will not tolerate corruption in others’.” 177

The Commission should promote the effective management of public affairs and public property, fairness, responsibility, and equality before law.  It should also safeguard integrity and foster a culture of intolerance for corruption. His Majesty, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Druk Gyalpo, said that corruption is like a serious illness, which if not prevented from the very beginning will become incurable, no matter what sort of medications and treatments are taken. His Majesty said it was important to ensure that corruption did not take hold in Bhutan, especially at this important juncture of its political development. He said that the Bhutanese people, being spiritual, including officials and layman tend to easily forgive those guilty of corruption. He told the people that it was their duty to build a strong and prosperous nation and to pass on to future generations a brighter future. Corruption and those guilty of corruption and other such acts jeopardized the nation’s very stability and progress. They must be punished according to the law, without fear or favour, and unhampered by misplaced piety.

Moreover, by electing good politicians, committed to ethically carrying out their public responsibilities178,  would have a direct impact on the country’s future and on the success of the Constitution and the democratic system per se. In our country, people must be mindful that it is important to prevent179 such bad practices from the very beginning. It shall be the responsibility of all officials and the authorities, and the duty of everyone to take full and equal responsibility to eradicate corruption from our country. Nothing has a more divisive and alienating effect upon society than moral complacency and a lack of individual and collective responsibility. Corruption encompasses those who take bribes, give bribes and do not report corrupt acts they are aware of. Despite the compassionate nature of Bhutanese, fighting corruption is a civic duty for the sake of the nation and the body politic. It does not merit compassion. Commenting on the Article, Justice J.S. Verma said:

“One particular office which impresses me is the Anti-corruption commission. So not only you should in your Constitution by making provision to that effect that corruption free governance is human rights, you also take steps to ensure that it is not merely lip service. And you give it a constitutional status to Anti-corruption commission and more than that duty of the Attorney General to vigorously pursue the prosecution recommended by the Anti-corruption commission… I said the constitutional obligation is imposed on the Attorney General, the highest law officer of the country to expedite vigorous prosecution. So corruption free governance is not only a human right, but how to ensure your main provisions. Corruption ultimately results in the violation of several basic human rights of the people.”

Contributed by Sonam Tobgye, Thrimchi Lyonpo

To be continued

 

Footnotes

175 Kasho dated 31stDecember, 2005.

176Kasho dated 11 February 2006.

 177 Ibid

178“Nothing has a more divisive and alienating effect upon society than…..moral complacency and lack of responsibility.” 

179 Refer Ten Virtuous Act of Buddhism.

180Public consultation at Thimphu on 26/10/2005.

181Public Consultation in Lhuntse on 24/12/2005.

182Public consultation in Gasa on 13/5/2006.

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