| Usha Drukpa,Thimphu
The four day Annual Judicial Conference that ended on March 14, 2017 at the Supreme Court here, not only brought judges and lawyers of the country to discuss performance of the judiciary and issues affecting the administration of justice, but saw the judiciary discussing on rejuvenating and strengthening people’s trust and confidence in the judiciary.
Thus, the theme of the conference was “Inspiring public trust and confidence.”
Addressing the judicial fraternity, the Chief Justice Lyonpo Tshering Wangchuk said that the judiciary has to progress efficiently and proactively. He said that the foundation of the justice system is trust of the people to resolve disputes with fairness, efficiency and impartiality. Lyonpo added that inspiring trust and confidence in the judiciary and delivering justice was central to the establishment of a justice system, which functions without fear and favour.
Aligning the relationship between rule of law and the judiciary, Lyonpo said that the key component to the concept of rule of law is a fair, impartial and an independent judiciary.
“It is important to disseminate information and make people understand that the notion of judicial independence is not only for the benefit of judges. In fact, judicial independence is for the benefit of the society at large,” he said.
Taking cognizance of the fact that in almost all cases the one losing always complains, Lyonpo underlined the importance of explaining to those losing cases, how the judgment was not in their favour.“I have always been asking judges to write their judgments and inform to the losing party or give reasons why a person is losing a case because the winning party is not going to be bothered,” the Chief Justice said.
He also said the judiciary should and will work towards avoiding criticism that there are two laws in the country, which Lyonpo referred to as a “common retort”. However, Lyonpo reiterated that if trust and confidence in the judiciary is instilled, these questions will not arise at all.
Lyonpo also spoke about independence of the judiciary and said that even as Chief Justice, he can only interfere if the procedure is applied differently in different courts. Otherwise decision making in every court is independent, he said. “Right from the Dungkhag court to the Supreme Court, everybody has a right to pass judgments without interference from anyone,” he said.
Underlining that the judiciary like other public service delivery offices are attacked and criticized, Lyonpo said that these criticisms should be seized and turned to opportunities. “We should never be discouraged by criticism. In fact it provides an opportunity for review and implementing necessary reforms and initiate necessary changes,” Lyonpo said.
However, Lyonpo reminded that if the level of unhappiness continues to increase, “it must be treated as a cause for concern.”
The Chief Justice also expressed the need to establish public relations division in the Supreme Court, which will deal with the perception of court users, especially on what their wants and needs are. “We cannot satisfy everyone’s needs. But whatever we can, we will do as we are committed to do it.”
Lyonpo further mentioned that the judiciary of Bhutan has initiated several reforms over the years including the establishment of the Green bench in the High Court in 2015 and the specialized benches in the Thimphu Dzongkhag court in 2016.
He also referred to important legislations such as the preparation and drafting of the private Money lenders Regulations in conjunction with the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA). In the opening address, the Chief Justice also referred to the first writ that was issued directing the government to reconsider establishing Thromdes in the remaining 16 Dzongkhags.
Meanwhile, the judiciary will also work towards establishing additional benches in Wangduephodrang and Gelephu in addition to the two benches in Paro and Phuentsholing.