Police to continue prosecuting cases graded petty misdemeanour and below:Joint Sitting

The Royal Bhutan Police will continue to prosecute criminal offences that are graded petty misdemeanour and below. This is after the joint sitting of the parliament today agreed to retain the particular section that gives RBP the power to prosecute such cases. 

The National Assembly during, the past sessions, proposed to repeal section 71 of the RBP Bill that gives RBP the power to prosecute any person for any criminal offence other than misdemeanour and above. The section allows police to prosecute cases that have a prison term of one year and below. The National Assembly, during the last session, proposed that the power to prosecute cases including the petty misdemeanour and below should be given to the Office of the Attorney General.

However, the National Council retained the section when the Bill was forwarded to the house for review.

The section was then given to the Joint Committee as a disputed clause after it drew disagreement between the two houses.

The Joint Committee, following many meetings and consultations with relevant agencies, decided to retain the section.

National Council Member, Nima, who is the chairperson of the Joint Committee said the Office of the Attorney General does not have enough manpower to prosecute offences that are petty misdemeanour and below.

“During the past sessions, there were discussions that prosecution should be carried out by the Office of the Attorney General.  When we talked with the relevant people and agencies, we have been told that it is better if police prosecute offences that are petty misdemeanour and below. This is because the OAG does not have enough manpower which will affect people in the end,” said the MP.

The National Council’s MP from Paro also expressed similar view.

“We know that the right agency for prosecution is the OAG. However, we all know OAG is facing the challenge of budget and human resource constraints. So, considering these challenges, if we allow police to prosecute these minor cases, it will not affect public service delivery,” said MP Ugyen Tshering.

Supporting the view, Chhoekhor-Tang’s MP Dawa, a member of the Joint Committee, said leaving the prosecution of petty misdemeanour cases with OAG will also clog detention centres and prolong and delay legal services.

“Police said that their workload will be less if it is given to OAG. They said OAG prosecutors get allowance which they don’t. But if we keep that solely with the OAG, the detentions will become clogged. If minor cases also need to be prosecuted by the OAG, then legal services will be prolonged and delayed,” said MP Dawa.

But some members were not satisfied with the committee’s decision to retain the section. Members said although they would support the committee’s recommendation, the government in the future should look into the possibility of keeping the prosecution works just with the OAG.

“When the section was discussed in the assembly, I was one of the members who raised that the prosecution should be carried out by the OAG and not RBP. It is an extra responsibility for the police. When it is the police who investigate and prosecute the case, there are a few challenges. There is also the risk of conflict of interest,” said Bartsham-Shongphu’s MP Passang Dorji.

“There is this concern of conflict of interest. I am supporting the recommendation only because of the situation although I do not want to,” added Kinga Penjor, MP of Gangzur-Minjey in Lhuentse.

However, the joint sitting passed the recommendation with a majority show of hands.

The Joint Committee made recommendations on nine disputed clauses. The recommendations were on seeking approval from the police headquarter for crime prevention activities at the local level, prosecutor allowance, and programs for convicts among others.

Alter deliberations, the sitting unanimously adopted the Royal Bhutan Police Bill. The bill will now be submitted for Royal Assent.

Kinley Dem & Nidup

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