The Office of the Attorney General is the legal arm of the executive branch of the Royal Government of Bhutan. It was first established as the Office of Legal Affairs in 1999 on the recommendation of the Special Task Force on Enhancing Good Governance (Ref.: RCSC/S-4/99/12 dated 13th December 1999).
Conceived as a “common embryo the Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Law”, it was the brainchild of the Council of Ministers under chairmanship Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup (As mentioned in the Minutes of the Meeting dated 19th October 2001). It was intended to check the immediate concerns of “abuse and under-exercise” of authorities by the agencies of the government (As mentioned in the Minutes of the Meeting dated 19th October 2001). Dasho Tashi Phuntshog, the then Secretary of the National Assembly was appointed as the Director General of the Office of Legal Affairs, in addition to his existing responsibilities, with effect from 1st January 2000 (Ref.: RCSC/S-4/99/4051 dated 24th November 1999).
The Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) was formally established on 14 April, 2000 to function as the central agency to deal with all legal matters on behalf of the government. Housed in the erstwhile Chhukha Hydro Power Corporation’s Guest House structure in Lower Motithang, OLA took over the prosecuting functions of the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) Secretariat and the Law and Order Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
For a brief period in 2001, the Office of Legal Affairs was renamed as the Department of Legal Affairs.
On 7th September 2001, with the appointment of the then Phuntsholing Dungkhag Drangpon Kuenlay Tshering as its Director, the office was again named as the Office of Legal Affairs. Dasho Tashi Phuntshog’s tenure as the Director General of the Office of Legal Affairs ended with the appointment of the new Director.
Dasho Kuenlay Tshering served as the Director of the Office of Legal Affairs till 6th March 2006 (Ref.: OLA/B-18/434 dated 6th March 2006), when he was promoted as a Justice of the High Court, the then highest appellate court in the country. Today, Dasho Kuenlay is one of His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo’s candidates on the National Council.
Pending the appointment of the new Director, Mr. Pema Rinzin took over as the officiating Director. He is today the Drangpon of Bumthang Dzongkhag Court.
On 26th April 2006, the Wangdiphodrang Drangpon Damcho Dorji took over as the Director. The Office of Legal Affairs till then functioned according to the Terms of Reference issued by the Council of Ministers in 2002. However, on 30 June 2006, the National Assembly during its 85th Session passed the Office of the Attorney General Act, exercising its powers under Article 29 of the Constitution.
On 15 August 2006, the Council of Ministers during its 318th Co-ordination Committee Meeting (CCM) resolved to formally establish the Office of the Attorney General and to appoint the Attorney General. Accordingly, the Office of the Attorney General was formally inaugurated by the Chief Justice of Bhutan, His Excellency Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, on 25 September 2006 and the serving Director Damcho Dorji was formally appointed as the Attorney General. Dasho Damcho Dorji resigned as the Attorney General handed over the charge over the office on 22nd August 2007 (Ref.: OAG/Adm-or/92 dated 22/8/2007). He is today the Honourable Member of Parliament.
Pending the appointment of the new Attorney General, Mr. Karma Lhuntshi, the Chief of Drafting and Review Division of the OAG served as the officiating Attorney General in 2008. The existing office space has become too small for the increased number of staffs. A prefabricated structure had to be constructed in 2008, which housed the library, store and the Administration & Finance Division of the OAG. During Karma Lhuntshi’s incumbency, the OAG hoisted its own website on 21st February 2008, coinciding with the birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fifth Druk Gyalpo. Mr. Karma Lhuntshi is now a vice president in the Punjab National Bank, Thimphu.
After almost a year without the Attorney General, Drangpon Rinzin Penjor of Punakha Dzongkhag was appointed as the Attorney General. He took over from Mr. Karma Luntshi in July 2008. Dasho Rinzin Penjor sought for a permanent solution to OAG’s office space problem. To his credit OAG has its new office construction in the pipeline. Barely serving 2 years as the Attorney General, Dasho Rinzin Penjor was appointed as one of the Justices of the Supreme Court.
For the first time in the OAG’s history, the Attorney General was appointed from within the office. The incumbent Attorney General Dasho Phuntsho Wangdi, who was the head of Prosecution and Litigation Division of the OAG succeeded Dasho Rinzin Penjor. He formally took over as the Attorney General on 14th May 2010. At present, the office is shifted to upper Motithang for a temporary period of 2 years. It began to function from its temporarily relocated office since 16th of August 2010.