My opinion on Jabmi Act Amendment, as it stands now after National Council’s deliberation of the Jabmi Amendment Bill passed onto by the National Assembly in the Summer Session.
As far as formation of Jabmi Tshogdey or Bar Council is concerned, the members proposed by the NC are:
1. The Attorney General as ex-officio member;
2. Two former Drangpons of the Supreme Court or High Court nominated by the National Judicial Commission;
3. Three members elected from amongst Jabmis.
4. One member from the NC
The Chairperson is to be elected by and amongst above listed members with exception that the Attorney General cannot be elected as the Chairperson.
However there are few points to be noted, why NC wants entry into Bar Council is not very clear, the only reason they put forth is to ensure that clients’ interests are voiced in the Bar Council. But still, why would a member from NC be right representation to the clients’ interest is not answered convincingly.
The other issue, I could not find provision, which provides for procedure for electing members from amongst jabmis. This may however, be taken care of by the Bar Council through adoption of the rules of procedure.
With regard to the disciplinary committee, it is provided that the members shall be appointed from the roll of Jabmis. However, how and who appoints is not mentioned or very vague. Similarly, in Section 51 of the Amendment Act, it is mentioned that Disciplinary Committee shall hold office till the next Annual General Meeting… The expression ‘Annual General Meeting” is also present in the 2003 Act, however, the responsibility of convening this meeting was given to Jabmi Thuentshog in the Act, and with Jabmi Thuentshog cut short by the NC amendment, who and how this meeting shall be convened is unclear.
Some functions of Bar Council as provided in Section 9 are very unrealistic. For instance, I am not sure if Bar Council will be able to provide Pro Bono legal aid services in addition to funding support from the State. Bar Council may encourage or mandate jabmis to provide certain pro bono legal aid services, but there is no possibility that Bar Council can provide such services on its own.
NC deleted the requirement of lawyer’s to undergo national legal course to be eligible jabmis. The main reason given was LLB degree and bar exam is good enough a test. The other reason was equality issues, they thought it is discriminatory to make students who studied outside Bhutan to undergo PGDNL course when students studying in Bhutan will not have to undergo this same course. The worry is can Bar Council or the bar exam ensure that lawyers have adequate knowledge of national laws when they don’t have to undergo national legal course.