Chapter 4 of the Civil Service Bill contradicts Article 7 of the Constitution: Journalists

Published on Jan 17 2010 // Media Monitor
Photo: BBS

Photo: BBS

January 14, 2009: The bone of contention in the proposed Civil Service Bill, 2009, that had already been passed by the National Assembly in the last Assembly session is exclusively on Chapter 4 of the Bill. Some of the media practitioners say that two clauses are in variance directly with the Article 7 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan under ‘Fundamental Rights’.

The Civil Service Bill 2009 could not be passed since it was characterized by confusion as some contradicting points were resolved with a simple majority in the last National Assembly session.

BBS approached some of the civil servants for their views on the Civil Service Bill, however, none of the civil servants wished to speak on the matter.

Two particular clauses under Chapter 4, ‘Duties and Rights of civil Servants’ in section K says that the Civil Servants should “maintain confidentiality of all facts and information discovered in the course of the duty, both while in service and after separation from service.”

Section Lof the bill dictates the civil servants “to refrain from expressing any adverse opinions against the Royal Government”.

Speaking to BBS the Secretary of Ministry of Information and Communication, Dasho Kinley Dorji said: “Restricting the civil servants from freedom of speech is certainly not a wise thing to do. The concerned persons who have come up with the bill obviously need to re-think and re-discuss these two clauses. However, what we should also understand is, there will be certain things which the government will not want to reveal to the public solely for security reasons.”

BBS also managed to gather the opinions from the various print media houses and all of them had their own reservations about the Bill.

“I am not happy with the bill; however, it is a tricky situation because no ministry or an agency will want to speak anything against their own organization,” said Tashi P Wangdi, Chief Editor, K4 Media.

According to Needrup Zangpo, Managing Editor of Bhutan Observer, about 90% of the information that media get is from the civil servants. “If this Bill becomes and Act, it would further bottleneck necessary information we will need to service our society. For an instance, ministries like health strictly adhered to maintaining confidentiality of the information, there as it is no professionals outside the health ministry who could provide us with substantive information,” he said.

Ugyen Penjore, Managing Editor, Kuensel, said: “Specifically on the clause (K), this is not right for the government to restrict its civil servants from maintaining confidentiality of all facts and figures, since such a practice could ultimately lead to corruption and injustice.”

However, the Bill will be put up in the upcoming National Council session to pass as an Act.

(From BBS)