Democracy hinges on the rule of law.
But going by the recent developments, we appear to be faltering in our democratic process of upholding the rule of law.
What with our lawmakers breaking laws as effortlessly as they make them and the Supreme Court legislating and breaching another law while correcting the legislative defects, the laws did not even exist when it concerns the airlines staff that tested positive for controlled substances.
It is reported that the drug some of them tested positive for is annexed in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act. But while administrative action appears to be enough in the aviation industry, all for the lack of a mention in the service rule, those caught with SP+, which is not annexed in the Act,were convicted.
Unless it is as indifferent to laws as our lawmakers, the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority, which the Supreme Court has now empowered to update the list of controlled substances, should implement its Act without fear or favour.
The disregard to laws by public institutions and public officials, we have been seeing lately is disconcerting. When all the three branches of the government are tolerating if not endorsing lawlessness, it shows weakness in governance.
However, the constitutional offices appear to take refuge in their laws, perhaps more to assert their independence then for public good. For in the case of the SMU graduates, the civil service commission and the election commission of Bhutan are firm that their laws do not empower them to recognise their certificates. Our policy makers have shown that laws matter to legitimise the degrees of university graduates but not to hold lawmakers and substance abusers accountable. We have shown the society that it is a crime to graduate with distance degrees but is not an offence to break laws. We have shown that our policymakers do not respect laws to uphold the rule of law.
There are some who contend that these instances and the way laws are cited indicate the rule of law being strengthened. Others argue that these indicate the rule of law being weakened. It is perhaps about perspectives but what does it mean when some sections of the society request a foreign country to relax its laws, as we have seen in the case of the Goods and Services Act? We don’t seem to be doing a good job upholding any laws.
This conundrum we have got ourselves into must be resolved. We have to adjust to GST instead of expecting the law of a foreign land to adjust to us. We have to act on the enacted laws and hold the defaulters accountable and it is on us to accommodate those who are victims of change. If we are quick to take refuge in the Constitution and other laws, our policymakers must show that they are as upbeat to uphold the rule of law.