Evolution of Bhutanese Legal System

Evolution of the Bhutanese
Legal System and Judicial
Drangpon Tharchean
Bhutan National Legal Institute
1614 – Chayig Chhenmo
1636 – First set of Bhutanese Law
1652 – Codification of Law Completed
Code based on fundamental teachings of Buddhism
Addressed violations of both secular and temporal laws
Ten pious acts – Lhachoe Gyewa Chu
Sixteen virtuous acts of social piety – Michoe Tsangma
Zhabdrung’s Code
It’s a basis of Bhutanese legal system
Amended several times –
10th Desi Mipham Wangpo consolidated and amended certain
In mid-18th Century, 13th Desi Choegyal Sherab Wangchuk
incorporated amendments
First and second kings made further modifications
Principles of Buddhism and natural justice have not
changed and have always been upheld.
Evolved over centuries reflecting culture and traditional
lifestyles, keeping stream of justice clear and pure
Thrimzhung Chhenmo
His Majesty Third King’s reign the National Assembly of
Bhutan enacted the first comprehensive codified laws known
as the Thrimzhung Chhenmo or the Supreme Law.
Almost all modern categories of criminal offenses and
corresponding penalties were enshrined under this
His Majesty the Fourth King initiated various amendments
and enactments of laws to respond fully and effectively to
the changing needs of our nation
Development of Bhutanese Judiciary
1961 – Appointment of Judges and separation of powers
1968 – Establishment of High Court
1978 – Establishment of Sub-District Court
2008 – Adoption of Constitution
Structure of Courts
Supreme Court
High Court
District Court
Sub-District Court
Judicial Process
1. Informal Process
• The Court system in Bhutan is established only in 1960s
• Mediation –Thrimshung Chhenmo
• Adjudication without Proceedings – Chapter 23 of the
Civil and Criminal Procedure Code 2001
• Alternative Dispute Resolution Act 2013
• The parties can also receive assistance of a Gup,
Chipon, Mang-mi or Barmi, as mediators. The final
settlement must be through voluntary consent and
signed by the parties and mediators.
Judicial Process Contd...
2. Formal Process
• Only a judge duly appointed by His Majesty is empowered
to hear and decide cases
• Drangpons were appointed in few Dzongkhags in 1960
• High Court established in 1968
• A judiciary established separate from Legislature and
Executive, fully independent in the exercise of its function
• Civil and Criminal Procedure Code, 2001 and Constitution, 2008
• As the informal or the traditional mechanism of dispute settlement
played a vital role in Bhutan, there is a need to promote and
strengthen this system at the grass roots level.
• It is hoped that with this symposium, the awareness on the system of
legal aid is created in the country.

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