Friday, December 28, 2012

Are Constitutional Bodies Democratic Institutions?

The public perception, and that of my own, is that the Constitutional bodies were created to safeguard the democratic process and for the provision of effective check and balance under a brand new and an unfamiliar system of governance. But recent cases of checks provided by some of the Constitutional bodies seem to be designed entirely to upset the balance.

In their eagerness to flex their unbridled muscles, irrespective of whether their individual Acts empower them or not, what has clearly been demonstrated by their actions is that they have no respect for the democratic process. Or, rather, these Constitutional bodies seem to have been empowered to function outside the democratic norm.

Yesterday afternoon a friend tells me that as of the beginning of January 2013, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has imposed a complete ban on the performance of annual Chokus – until the end of the upcoming elections and the declaration of its results. As a result, I am told that a large number of households around the country are in a frenzy to perform their annual Choku this month - a Dha-nag (inauspicious month)! Traditionally, it would be anathema to conduct Choku during a Dha-nag.

On the one hand the ECB has infringed on the fundamental right of the individual and the society to a free and fair practice of their religious and cultural traditions. On the other, they have, knowingly or unknowingly, forced the people to digress from centuries old religious belief - that conducting Choku during a Dha-nag is inauspicious and earns bad Karma. It is nothing short of blasphemy, for those who are believers.

I do understand the logic behind the ECB’s concerns. However, what is the rationale behind attacking only the religious and cultural practice of the Buddhists in Bhutan? What of the holding of the Christian Mass and the performance of Hindu Pujas, where a large number of people congregate too? What of other social events such as: archery tournaments, marriages, celebration of births and deaths, promotions, sporting events, National Day celebrations, Tsechus and Dromchoes, etc.? Is the ECB going to ban those too?

To me it seems like the more intelligent and reasonable way would be to issue a rule saying that politicking during such events would not be allowed. Completely banning such events is akin to desecrating the female womb on the grounds that it can foment a potential miscreant.

At best, the ECB would have to manage and oversee less than 400,000 voters on the day of the polling. For such a minuscule number, it seems like they are going completely overboard. I am told that some universities abroad have that kind of student enrollment.

No doubt, some institutions may be empowered with extremely formidable powers. Regardless, it is important for these institutions and the persons heading those institutions to realize that certain powers should be exercised only in the rarest of rare situations.

You are not a rich man because you have millions hoarded away in a secret vault - but because you have enough to give to those who stand in need. You are not a powerful man because you wield so much power - but because you have the sensibility and wisdom to contain those powers - for the good and benefit of those whom you have been elected to serve.


  1. Wonderful article, outstanding writing!
    I especially love this sentence: "Completely banning such events is akin to desecrating the female womb on the grounds that it can foment a potential miscreant."
    Please keep writing. I always look forward to your pieces.

  2. The ECB jumped the gun to say the least! It's like they are more excited about the next elections than anyone else. I remember a line in one of the Spiderman series; the father says, with power comes responsibility. Most times I suppose whether agencies or individuals, when power is attained, responsibility goes out the window. Anon.