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The Making of the Constitution

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Article 29

The Attorney General

This Article covers the Attorney General and the responsibilities of the office. The predecessor of the Attorney General’s Office was the Office of Legal Affairs. The Office of the Attorney General has inherited the functions and duties of the Office of Legal Affairs. The Attorney General’s Office was set up in August 2006.

The Attorney General has to carry out the responsibilities arising within the domain and authority of the Government and such other legal matters as may be entrusted to the Office. This autonomous and professional organization reaffirms the ideal of protection of the innocent and bringing the errant to Justice. Timely detection and prompt prosecution will exalt the majesty of justice, prevent clandestine transgressions and terrify the wrong doers. People want timely action. Delay demonizes the system, frustrates the people and camouflages the evil. We cannot condone this. We may not succeed immediately, but a good start has been made. The Attorney General should lead the Office to fulfill His Majesty’s vision and affirm the fundamental importance of the institution in sustaining the whole edifice of society so that right may be done to all manners of people according to law.

Article 30

The Pay Commission

The Pay Commission is important for ensuring uniformity and parity in the structure of the salaries, benefits and other emoluments among different organizations of the Government with due regard to the economy of the Kingdom. Without it, vested interest may create disparity among the organizations. No organization is more important than the other. Biased action and entrenched interest in certain organizations may deteriorate the morale of the civil servants. Subsequently, Bhutan must have appropriate salary structure and system to promote high moral, ethical values, productivity and progress of administrative, technical and professional knowledge without mismatch of job and unemployment.

The Pay Commission was created with a view that disparities in pay and allowances will be removed and every person will be paid equally for equal work done. It can recommend from the overall views without any disparity.

A public organization or individual should not enrich oneself from public and tax fund. It negates the basic objective of public service. To misuse one’s dominant position, office and authority is bankruptcy of morality, offensive to conscience and sterilization of spirituality. Hence, an independent pay commission was enshrined in the Constitution with a broad base and consultation at a macro-level. Parliament was not given the recommending power to change the salaries, benefits and other emoluments structure because the approving authority must not be a member of a recommending commission. It is a conflict of interest.

 

Article 31

Holders of Constitutional Offices

Democracy has enduring values of preserving liberty, preventing tyranny and strengthening sovereignty. Election per se will not endure democratic values. Leibniz said that pluralism is same as liberal and representative democracy with several centres of power. Consequently, independent bodies are different centres of power. They are established to perform sensitive and critical functions to ensure an open political and administrative system. Professionals, who are independent of party politics, occupy constitutional offices. The Election Commission is responsible for all aspects of the conduct of elections, the Royal Civil Service Commission is to prevent improper favouritism in recruitment in the civil service, the Auditor-General for investigating whether Government expenditure is properly authorized and spent for achieving proper objectives, and the Anti-corruption Commission is responsible to detect and prevent fraud and misuse.

Constitutional posts are extremely important. Constitutional office holders must be stalwarts against political or personal pressure and set an example by the virtue of their competence, wisdom and dedication. The constitutional office holders should not bend to the popular cry, drown themselves in whirlpool of vociferous voice and adjust themselves to the power. They have to be fair without fear and favour. They are eminent persons recommended by high level recommending authority with educational qualification, performance records, and moral and ethical standards. For these sterling qualities, they have to be tested and examined based on their track record.

His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, pointed out that in many countries, the President or Prime Minister usually select people who are close to them for constitutional posts. In the Bhutanese Constitution, except the Drangpons of the Supreme Court and the High Court, a broad-based committee of five persons namely, the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of Bhutan, Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chairperson of the National Council, and the Leader of the Opposition Party, select holders of constitutional offices. His Majesty expressed the view that the selection and appointment of persons to constitutional posts being very important, such a system was more reliable and credible and would help ensure a fair selection of the constitutional office holders who must be independent and should maintain the highest standard of integrity in upholding the Constitution and serving the people.189  His Majesty viewed that constitutional office holders must perform their duties strictly in accordance with the rules provided for them by the Constitution and other defining legislation and Acts. To ensure that they are indeed of the highest caliber possible, the Constitution requires that the Constitutional Office holders be appointed by the committee so as to prevent appointments on political interest or party affiliation.

Further, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, said that constitutional office holders provide one of the most important check and balance mechanisms in our democracy. Therefore, as eminent persons, the standards they are assessed by in terms of experience, educational qualification, performance, and moral and ethical character must be very stringent and closely tailored to national requirements. As such, in addition to high qualification, the candidate for these posts must be natural born citizens. The Constitution drafters felt that this full and very stringent set of criteria, will best safeguard the national interest and uphold the principles embedded in the Constitution.

Contributed by Sonam Tobgye, Thrimchi Lyonpo 

To be continued

Footnotes:

189. Refer Kuensel dated 29 October 2005.

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