In dire need of a Legal Aid Act?

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering

SONAM PENJOR

Thimphu

The national council representative of Punakha Dzongkhag, Lhaki Dolma, highlighted that the lack of adequate legal aid has deprived vulnerable sections of the population of their constitutional rights to avail access to justice and fairness.

Lhaki Dolma added that there is need of a legal aid Act in the country so that it benefits the most vulnerable sections of the population and also questioned on the status of legal aid services assured during the State of Nation Report last year.

The national council, on 13 June, had conducted a question-hour session with the Prime Minister, Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering, on the status of the enactment of the Legal Aid Act.

Responding to the questions, Lyonchhen said that every Bhutanese are from humble backgrounds.

“In the eye of the law, all are equal. We don’t have a different rule of procedures for different sections of the population, rather we have one of the best judicial systems in the world,” he said.

Lyonchhen added that he received a command from the Speaker of the national assembly regarding the status of the drafting of the rule of procedures of the legal aid acts, and that he didn’t inform the house as they haven’t one.

He said that the cabinet received a draft Rules of Procedure for Legal Aid Act from the Office of Attorney General (OAG) two weeks ago, but they are yet to reach a consensus as the rule of the procedure needs to be discussed in the cabinet.

However, on the contrary, the OAG wanted the draft rule to be submitted to the cabinet for approval and to start the groundworks.

Highlighting on the current situation of the country, he said that, as of now, he is not in a position to make a stance on the enactment of the legal aid act since the deliberation of the Civil Liability Bill is underway. The parliament can look into the appropriateness and include sections on it he said.

“It was felt that legal aid was required only when they are before the court, but I am of the view that legal aid starts from the process of the investigations. There are many people who are deprived of justice because they lack legal knowledge, and legal advisors and can’t afford to hire a lawyer,” Lyonchhen said.

Lyonchhen added that everyone is equal before the court of law and that we have full trust and have faith in the judges who deliver the justice and the way they deliver it.

In addition, he said that there could be some flaws even in the process of delivering judicial systems. For a surgeon, Lyonchhen said, there is no surgery without complications.

He said that if humble people don’t have knowledge of the legality, it is the responsibility of the two houses to provide awareness on the rule of procedures regarding legal aid.

He said currently, institutions like Bhutan National Legal Institute and OAG are providing awareness of the rule of law across the country.

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