National Council (NC) members expressed concerns over the session procedures highlighting that the proper Legislative Rules of Procedures in voting and passing of bills was not followed in the Joint Sitting.
At the National Council’s Press Conference to report the resolutions passed by the House in the 29th Session, the NC members discussed on the issue of voting down the agenda on providing human resource (HR) independence for Anti-Corruption Commission.
The agenda was put forward by the joint committee on the ACC (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan (2021).
Instead of show-of-hand procedure, the Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel used voting machine to decide on the agenda, said the NC members.
This, they said, is a failure of the Speaker to follow proper Legislative Rules of Procedures in voting and passing of Bills in the Joint Sitting.
All the recommendations were decided through a show of hands, said the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council Jigme Wangchuk, however, he said that the recommendation to grant HR independence to ACC, the Tshogpon Wangchuk Namgyel opted to use voting machine.
He added, there is no such system to decide on a recommendation through voting machine. He further said that they didn’t wish to let ACC know the support of individual members towards the recommendation.
Further, the National Council member from Punakha Lhaki Dolma said that the decision of the Speaker left the NC member confused. “I have never seen recommendations decided through the voting machine, and that they are deciding at their convenience,” she added.
The NC members said, they reminded the House repeatedly about the Legislative Rules of Procedures in voting and passing of Bills in the Joint Sitting.
NC member of Punakha Lhaki Dolma said that they didn’t have any right over the House, so they were left voiceless.
Additionally, Chhukha NC MP member Sangay Dorji highlighted that using the voting machine, the Speaker contradicts section 68 of the Legislative Rules of Procedure 2017 (Revised). It states, no vote shall be held on separate sections or articles of a Bill which has been resolved by the Joint Committee(s).
However, the Tshogpon said the decision followed the procedure, and the issue surfaced only because the NC was not able to fulfil their agenda to hand over HR independence to Anti-Corruption Commission.
He also pointed that he had used the voting machine for this important recommendation so that members are not swayed as show of hands often influence through the decision of influential members.
The Speaker further said that such issues would not have surfaced if the agenda was adopted even by using the voting machine. He cited section 61 of Legislative Rules of Procedure 2017 (Revised) and clarified that he opened room for discussion, and asked the members to vote through raise of hands, only few did, it led the Speaker to understand that the house could decide.
In addition to it, the Tshogpon also mentioned section 62 of Legislative Rules of Procedure 2017 (Revised) under Report to Parliament. Section 62 states: “The final report shall not be open for further amendment at the Joint Sitting and after the report has been submitted by the Chairperson/Member, the Bill shall be put to vote by the Speaker. It shall be passed if endorsed by not less than two-thirds of the total number of Members of both the Houses present and voting.”
Meanwhile, section 55A of Legislative Rules of Procedure 2017 (Revised) under Proceedings of Joint Committee(s) states that if the Joint Committee is not able to arrive at a consensus, members shall take decisions by voting through show of hands.
NC members also pointed that the Chairperson of the National Council also repeatedly reminded the house on the rules of procedure.
Further, Chhukha NC member also pointed that each topic must be decided via votes as per Legislative Rules of Procedure 2017 (Revised) leaving him unsatisfied with the remark of the Joint Committee’s Chairperson that he accepts the recommendation’s result, whatever it is.
Pointing the high attrition rate in ACC, NC member from Gasa Dorji Khandu said that ACC will see challenging times without HR autonomy and it won’t be able to fulfill its mandate of check and balance properly.
Citing the HR autonomy of the Election Commission of Bhutan, he said that the commission is performing very well.