NC deliberates important milestones

By Chimi Wangmo

Coinciding with the 31st Birth Anniversary of Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, the Legislative Committee of the National Council presented its report on the background on the need for enactment of Civil Liability Bill/Torts Bill

The Deputy Chairperson of the Legislative Committee, Ugyen Tshering presented a report on the numerous incidents of negligent deaths and grave injuries to victims, as well as loss and damage of public property over the years.

He said multiple accounts of death and injuries resulting from poor or sub-standard quality of construction works carried out by the contractors, coupled with failure on the part of the relevant government agencies and officials to carry out proper inspection have become rampant.

The failure on the part of the employers to eliminate health and safety risks at the workplace by providing and maintaining a safe and risk-free working environment and failure to provide accident compensation is also widespread MP Ugyen Tshering said.

He added that in 2013 along, health facilities across the country recorded 29,303 work-related injuries and trauma in the construction sector.

The cases of employment of minors in Drayangs under hazardous and exploitative conditions imposed grave risk to the life and health of the minors and Drayang employees were also some of the other issues deliberated.

MP Ugyen said the relevant authorities have also failed to carry out timely inspection and monitor the workplaces. Such perilous or unreasonable conducts which causes injury to others are known as torts or civil wrongs as per the law.

Highlighting some unfortunate occurrences, the Legislative Committee of the National Council proposed an enactment of the Torts/Civil Liability Bill to address the ongoing predicament faced by victims of civil wrongs.

In addition to instituting and enhancing corrective and restorative justice for the victims in the country, this proposed legislation will bring about accountability in the system and imbibe a sense of responsibility amongst relevant/responsible individuals, officials, agencies, business entities, as well as citizens.

Over the deliberations, the Council expressed diverse views in lieu of enactment of the new bill owing to pre-existing laws which contains the provisions and concerns of the Tort/Civil Liability Bill. However, the House will decide on the need of establishment of the said law in the later sittings.

Meanwhile, on the joyous occasion of Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen’s 31st Birth Anniversary, the National Council offered heartfelt prayers for Her Majesty’s longevity and eternal wellbeing. A cake cutting ceremony was also held to commemorate this special occasion.

Discussion on Farm roads

The members of the National Council led by the Good Governance Committee this week conducted a consultation meeting with the Gross National Happiness Commission on issues confronting farm roads in the country.

The Commission made a comprehensive presentation on the Improvement of Farm Road project which is a part of Economic Contingency Plan.

The Presentation covered on background and objectives, overall status of farm roads, proposed interventions for improvement and recommended interventions, criteria for prioritization, phase wise progress of farm roads, financial progress, and resource status for farm road improvements.

Following the presentation, the meeting discussed on wide range of issues concerning rationalization and prioritization of farm roads, socio-economic and environmental impacts, quality and monitoring of farm roads, budget and financing for the construction and maintenance, and the role of Local Governments in the farm road sector among others.

The Committee informed that it will present an interim review report to the council in this 27th Session of the National Council. 

MP Phuntsho Rapten, Chairperson of the Legislative Committee introduced the Civil Society Organization (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021 to the NC in the ongoing session.

He informed the House that the Act was first enacted in 2007 to strengthen civil society, promote social welfare and enhance harmony in the society. He added that the amendment is primarily for the purpose of improving and strengthening the Civil Society Organizations Authority and timely monitoring of the Civil Society Organizations.

Today there are 53 registered CSOs in the country and another 25 are awaiting registration.

Following the introduction, the council deliberated on the recommendations of the Committee on the Amendment Bill. While some of the members supported the recommendation, others felt that it requires specificity.

Further, the council also deliberated on the composition of the Authority, Endowment Fund Limit of CSOs, Removal from the Register, Accounting and Reporting System, Annual Audit, and Annual Reports, amongst others.

The NC directed the Committee to consult and re-deliberate with the concerned Hon’ble Members on the disputed sections of the Bill and submit for the final adoption.

Meanwhile, Lyonpo Namgay Tshering, Minister of Finance introduced the Agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) on the Privileges and Immunities of the Green Climate Fund to the National Council.

Lyonpo said that the Fund is an opportunity for Bhutan to avail sustained grant for the execution of developmental projects, and it is essential to provide the Privileges and Immunities to the Fund for the smooth implementation of the projects.

The finance minister also informed the House that the GCF has approved 7 projects worth USD 56.86 million for Bhutan and additional 6 projects amounting to USD 95.00 million are in the pipeline. Further, the government has accredited Bank of Bhutan, Bhutan Development Bank Limited and Bhutan National Bank, to access GCF private sector loan facility for private sector investment and development.

Following the introduction, the finance minister responded to the questions of the Members regarding the need of such privileges and immunities to other international agreements; government’s plans for the repayment of loans; availability of GCF loans to CSI sector; Bhutan’s preparedness and capacity to complete the projects within timeline; legality of the government’s signing of the agreement before Parliament’s ratification, amongst others.

After the introduction of the Agreement, the Natural Resources and Environment Committee, committee in-charge of the Agreement, presented a review of the Agreement.

The Committee reported that there is no severe implication on national interest by ratifying the Agreement. Instead, it would supplement and benefit the existing plans and further enhance Bhutan’s coordination with GCF to fulfill the Agreement’s purpose.

The NC also deliberated on each of the 14 Articles of the Agreement and endorsed the committee’s recommendations, which mostly consisted of minor changes in the Dzongkha text.

The committee also submitted general recommendations of the need to consult the Members of Parliament before signing such international instruments, and the requirement of the government to strictly adhere to the treaty-making protocols.

Some members agreed with the committee’s general recommendations while others shared the issue of conflict of interest, if such agreements are discussed with MPs before signing and also submit to them for ratification. The council directed the committee to re-deliberate with concerned members on the general recommendations and accordingly submit for adoption.

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