Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Fiscal Incentives the flashing constitutional controversy in Bhutanese Politics.

1. I first heard of it when MP Tharchen of NC made a reference in fb. But did not understand the basis. 

2. Next there was the call for resignations of PM and FM by DNT. Since they directed the attack against two individuals and not the whole Government, it simply looked politics of personal attack in nature.

After listening to the two leaders PM and OL  live at BBS, my feelings are as follows.

a) BBS should show the specific paragraphs of Supreme Court Judgement dealing with Fiscal Incentives if such was part of the whole judgement on taxation requiring to be a Money Bill. The Opposition Leader could also have read out the relevant judgement during the interview  if DPT was absolutely confident of their interpretation of the judgement.

b) The PM had declared that the Supreme Court had not taken away the Government's prerogative in providing Fiscal Incentives. He seemed confident on this score.  He also said that as Opposition, he had never questioned this prerogative of the Government whilst sueing the Government on motor vehicle tax raise.

c. The Opposition Leader stated that he and his Party was under the understanding that the Supreme Court Judgement had taken away the Government's prerogative on Fiscal Incentives. However, the same judgement had not censured the Fiscal Incentives already given by the DPT Government. He felt the judgement came into force from the day it was issued.

All in all,  the Opposition Leader was saying that the two Parties had derived different interpretations from the same judgement of the Supreme Court. In my view, it is quite unlikely for concerned Political Parties and Agencies to have such opposing interpretation of a what was termed " a Land Mark  Judgement " in the first constitutional case. 

The Opposition Leader, however, did confirm that PDP had not litigated Fiscal Incentives in  the constitutional case. The then the 2 member PDP Opposition had only challenged the Motor Vehicle Tax.

Conclusions:

a) Whose interpretation is correct can be determined if and when specific part of Judgement on Fiscal Incentive, if any,  is made available to the public. The judgement was several  years back and most would not be able to recall off the cuff.

I do not recall that the  judgement had covered Fiscal Incentives. It was not an issue raised by PDP. As PM stated on BBS, it may have been part of defence arguement of DPT Government to support  the taxation on motor vehicle without Parliament approval. The  Government had power to grant Fiscal Incentives and therefore,  by the same virtue, the Government should have power to levy tax, could have been the line of arguement.

Still, though Fiscal Incentives was not under the scanner at that time, maybe the final judgement had touched upon it. Only a scrutiny of the actual text of the judgement would reveal the facts.

b) Until I heard the Opposition Leader state that the Supreme Court judement of the first constitutional case had taken away the Government's  prerogative on Fiscal Incentives, I never thought of " constitutional breach " .

I suppose when the PDP Government had granted Fiscal Incentives in January, 2016, the Opposition DPT must have opposed the same then and there pointing out the unconstitutionality of it. It is not possible to follow all issues discussed during Parliament Sessions or in the public domain.   And I do not recollect that DNT had publicly raised any objection until recently in the media.

Just for reference or information, as per set precedent, guilt of constitutional breach does not end in automatic exit of the guilty political party. But a correction in the course is implemented. 
  

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