Familiarising with the Structure of the Government before undertaking Bhutan Tours

Punakha in Bhutan

Punakha in Bhutan

Before undertaking Bhutan vacation tours, it is important to understand the politics of the mountainous kingdom. It is a constitutional monarchy, wherein the king is the head of the state, but the main decisions are taken by the council of ministers. Bhutan has always been a sovereign nation as it was never colonised owing to its difficult topography. The British however, according to the Treaty of Punakha, were to decide all of its policies. After the Indian Independence in 1947, the same policy was continued, but with loads of modification and new clauses. Abiding by the agreement, India does not interfere with its internal matters and Bhutan seeks the guidance of the former country. However, now the treaty has been disregarded by both countries, further strengthening the claim of Bhutanese sovereignty.

Executive Structure

The national constitution provides for three branches of the government: executive, legislature and judiciary. A separate religious institution called Dratshang Lhentshog or the Monastic Affairs Commission also exists. Its job is to manage the duties of the sect of Tibetan Buddhism in the country, and receive and impart funds and facilities to ensure its survival. The monarch is the head of the religious and secular branches of the national government. Even though the monarch is a hereditary attribute, he cannot assume his office beyond 65 years of age. A special provision is kept under the constitution, wherein the king can be removed if more than two-thirds of the parliamentarians vote against him. Five candidates are chosen to head the government based on popular vote for a term of five years. The Prime Minister is head of the government and each year the position is given to one of these five candidates depending on who gets the maximum votes.

Legislative

The two houses of the parliament are known as National Council or the Upper House and National Assembly or the Lower House. All elections and the activities of the political parties, during or prior to the event, are overseen by the Election Commission. The main duty of the Parliament is to pass bills and form or amend laws. After being passed by both lower houses, the bills are sent to the upper house within 30 days. Finally, they make their way to the king for being made into laws or being modified and reintroduced in the houses. The kingdom is divided into 20 states known as Dzonkhag and the activities of their governments are also overseen by the central law making body. Internal and territorial borders can also be altered by the organisation after getting the consent of at least three-fourths of the members.

Judiciary and Legal Systems

Knowing about the judiciary and legal system may come in handy if Bhutan tours are being planned by travellers. The legal system is largely based on the rules prescribed by the unifier of the kingdom, Shabdrung Ngawang Wangchuk in the 17th century and those of India. Cases are fought in the Supreme Courts, High Court and 20 Dzongkhag Courts. Accused or convicts are presented before a panel of judges, who chair the trial. The prosecutor asks them to confess their crimes and they do so, their punishment may be lenient. On the contrary if they do not accept their fault and their crime is heinous, the punishment can be severe.

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