The Office of the Attorney General is an autonomous agency, established to carry out the responsibilities within the domain and authority of the Government and such other legal matters as may be entrusted to the Office. The Attorney General is an Eminent Jurist appointed by the Druk Gyalpo, by warrant under his hand and seal on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with Article 29(2) of the Constitution of Bhutan and serves a tenure of five years or until attaining the age of sixty-five years whichever is earlier. The Attorney General is eligible for reappointment and may serve a maximum of two terms.
The Attorney General, as the chief legal officer, is the legal advisor to and legal representative of the Government. It is the duty of the Attorney General to aid and advise the Royal Government upon legal matters, prosecute and defend the interests of the State, and discharge other functions in pursuit of justice. In the performance of his duties, the Attorney General shall have the right to appear before all courts of law in Bhutan and represent the State in any court of law outside the Kingdom of Bhutan. The Attorney General has the power to institute, initiate, and withdraw cases and is bestowed with the right to appear before all courts of law as well as express opinions on any legal question in Parliament.
According to section 63 of the Office of the Attorney Act 2015, the Attorney General is accountable to the Druk Gyalpo and the Prime Minister. To this effect, the Attorney General is mandated to submit an Annual report to the Druk Gyalpo and the Prime Minister.
The Attorney General is entrusted with the sacred responsibility to serve the Tsa-Wa-Sum, the King, Country, and People. He must ensure that the rule of law and justice is upheld. According to section 93 of the Office of the Attorney Act 2015, the Druk Gyalpo may on the recommendation of the Prime Minister remove/require the Attorney General to resign, on the following grounds:
- Physical, mental, or other incapacity rendering the Attorney General incompetent in carrying out his duties; or
- Violation of any provisions of the Office of the Attorney General Act 2015; or
- A conviction under any other law.
Organogram of the Office of the Attorney General
The restructuring of the Office organogram, approved by the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) on 28 June 2016 created a career pathway for government attorneys that includes the position of two Directors for the Department of Justice and Department of Legal Services respectively. The constitutional mandates of this Office are executed through the Department of Justice and the Department of Legal Services. In addition, section 7 of the Office of the Attorney General Act 2015 empowers the office to establish more departments, divisions, and sections, as deemed necessary by the Attorney General in consultation with the RCSC. A new ‘International Legal Affairs Division’ has been approved which will mainly focus on matters of public international law and environmental law.
Department of Justice
The Department of Justice is vested with the power to represent the interests of the State before the Royal Court of Justice. It derives its authority from Article 29 of the Constitution and section 10 of the Office of the Attorney General Act 2015. It comprises the Prosecution and Litigation Division (PLD) that is supported and further subdivided into the Property and Judgement Enforcement Unit (PJEU), the Media and Information Services, and Library Section.
Prosecution and Litigation Division
The PLD is vested with the mandate to prosecute and litigate criminal and civil cases respectively on behalf of the State. It collaborates with various Agencies, including investigating entities such as the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Royal Bhutan Police, in ensuring the rule of law and justice prevails. The PLD engages the most attorneys within the Office consisting of thirty-three attorneys, three contract lawyers, and six legal assistants.
In pursuit of the rule of law, the office is conscious of the importance of cultivating a vibrant legal system and offers a wide range of internship programs. The internship programs are intended to train law students and recruits with practical legal knowledge and current practices. Depending upon the subject area of law, the internship programs may range between one month to a year. Interns are assigned under the supervision of senior prosecutors and attorneys. Interning with the office allows the interns to expand their knowledge with practical experience, preparing them for the job market.
Department of Legal Services
The Department of Legal Services is responsible for assisting the Attorney General in advising the Government on any legal matters. It is also responsible for drafting laws and reviewing existing laws as deemed necessary by the Government. It derives its authority from Article 29 of the Constitution and section 10 of the Office of the Attorney General Act. The Department of Legal Services is bifurcated into two divisions in keeping with this mandate: the Legal Services Division (LSD) and the Drafting and Review Division (DRD).
Legal Service Division (LSD)
The Legal Service Division (LSD) is primarily required to assist the Attorney General in carrying out his responsibilities as the legal advisor and legal representative of the State. The Division is entrusted with a range of functions under the Office of the Attorney General Act 2015 that include among other things, rendering legal opinions and legal services on matters of law and such other issue of a legal nature as referred to it by the Government; providing legal education to legal professionals and dissemination of laws to the general public to create awareness of current legal developments. It is also required to work and collaborate with relevant stakeholder agencies whenever a task is assigned to the Office to develop Rules of Procedures (SoP), Guidelines, and so forth. To carry out these functions the Division is bifurcated into three sections namely, the Advisory Section, the Dissemination Section and the Dzongkha proficiency section.
Currently, the Advisory section essentially deals with two legal regimes; Domestic law and International law. The subject matter under International law ranges from the rights and obligations arising out of signing, accession and ratification of international conventions and treaties. Conversely, the subject matter under Domestic law ranges mainly for issues of governance and the legitimacy of executive actions. It is also involved in dealing with other issues that are criminal and civil in nature, including taxation, delimitation, election, extradition, government contracts, cybersecurity, and so forth.
The Dissemination section especially focuses on providing legal education to legal professionals and dissemination of laws to the general public to create awareness of current legal developments.
Dzongkha Proficiency Section
The Dzongkha proficiency section consists of one Senior Language Development Officer, who assists all the three divisions in matters of translation and review of court submissions.
Drafting and Review Division
The Drafting and Review Division (DRD) is a service provider for legislative drafting and reviewing of bills and delegated legislation that collaborates with agencies across the Government. The Division has a statutory obligation entrusted with a range of functions; review of bills and delegated legislation that is drafted by other governmental agencies; constitute a committee to review laws on the instruction of the Government, and is the depository of all laws in the country. The Division also carries out drafting and review training to all the Government lawyers working in different ministries and agencies.
The Secretariat Services of the Attorney General form the vital organ as they support and ensure the efficient functioning of the Office. The Secretariat services consist of Administration, Finance, Human Resources, and Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) units headed by Mr. Tshewang Rinchen.