Bhutan endorses the proposed National Digital Identity Bill 2023, save two clauses

Bhutan is to continue deliberations on two clauses recommended for input in the proposed National Digital Identity Bill, 2023.

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The National Assembly of Bhutan deliberated over the final draft of Bhutan’s National Digital Identity Bill, 2023, on 29 June, debating its content and possible impacts. According to the National Council, it is a first of its kind and urgently needs implementation, specifically to gain the population’s trust.

Last week the Bill was returned to the 41-member National Assembly (NA) again for deliberation. The Bill was adopted at the end of the sitting, except for two clauses. Apart from the Bill itself, the NA also endorsed the National Council’s recommendation for a board overseeing the programme. In contrast, however, several MPs rejected the following recommendations contained within the impending Act: ‘The National Digital Identity Company shall be a public limited company with all the shares owned by Druk Holding and Investments Limited’, and ‘The offences and penalties prescribed in this Chapter shall be in accordance with the Penal Code of Bhutan’. 

Concerning the former, one MP pinpointed that the private interests of a ‘company’ is in direct conflict with that of a public sector service provider. Another MP indicated that the clause presents the public’s data as a commodity that can be traded. As to the second clause, according to another MP, the phrasing used in the Bill is too broad in its application of the Penal Code to anticipated offences. He recommended the use of verbiage reflecting that the grade of the penalty is dependent on the severity of the offence. 

The Bill is scheduled to appear again before the joint sitting of the Parliament to further decide on the two disputed clauses.