The judiciary, henceforth, will not accept any election-related dispute that crops up during the election period, except complaints pertaining to error of electronic voting machine. The election laws, according to a recent election related guideline issued to all courts in Bhutan by the Supreme Court (SC), were enacted barring the jurisdiction of the courts in all election matters during the election period. “Therefore, any problems or complaints related to the election period must be decided by the election dispute settlement bodies at the district, national and the election commission, with the opportunity to appeal to the court only as a last resort,” stated the guideline signed by chief justice Sonam Tobgye.
The election dispute settlement rules and regulations, 2009 defines Election Period as the period beginning on the day of issue of notification, and ending with the declaration of results. It also states that “A court of law shall, in order to provide an uninterrupted election process in the kingdom, not have jurisdiction to question the legality of any action taken or of any decision given by the commission or its officers or by any other person under this rules and regulations, during the election period.”
“Since the provisions of the Election Act, 2008 and the election settlement rules and regulations ousted the jurisdiction of the court, it is the responsibility of the election dispute settlement bodies to accept and decide any problems or complaints related to the election period,” a SC justice said.
The directive stated that, based on the scheme of the relevant election laws and retention of powers by the ECB to decide election-related issues during the election period through dispute settlement bodies at the dzongkhag, national and commission levels, the courts in obedience to the laws must abstain from adjudicating such matters.
“Therefore, the election petition filed with the courts post declaration of results must be diligently scrutinised to ensure that the issues do not pertain to the election period or it would be dismissed,” stated the guideline.
The guideline, according to a SC justice, was issued based on cases related to the election period filed to courts after the June 27 LG elections. A total of 31 election petitions were filed in 13 dzongkhags and all were dismissed as being related to the election period and the matters were not worthy of judicial scrutiny.