Spike in Marriage and MC translation

While marrying a person of one’s choice is the legal rights of individuals in Bhutan, yet with the increase in the number of people leaving abroad to study and earn, it has increased the workload of the public notary offices with couples seeking marriage certificate. 
The constitution of kingdom of Bhutan protects a genuine marriage but the rights are misused with the term of De-facto or people only marrying on paper to reach their dream country such as Australia.
 Sonam Tshering, professor of Jigme Singye Wanghuck Law School said, “De-facto is not genuine and we do not have the concept of de-facto marriage in our law.”
He said, “The marriage act of enriched in Constitution of Bhutan reiterate that they are either married or not married and the concept of de-facto is a huge concern.”
If anyone is proven to be processing for a fake marriage certificated, they are liable for Perjury and therefore liable to be penalized with a minimum amount equivalent to minimum daily wage for one year (Nu 45,000).
Tshering Pelden, Assistant Judge of Public Notary office said, “When we are reasonably not sure about the fake marriage, we just dismiss the application and reject the marriage certificate.”
 So far, the public notary office has dismissed 27 fake marriages and penalized 1 case for perjury.
 To check whether it’s genuine of fake couple, the office takes few extra measures to ensure that the office do not issue marriage certificate for fake marriages, which will cause many more issues for the party concerned as well as the Judiciary in times to come.
 “We ask few random screening questions to the couple to assess the genuineness of the marriage during the hearing, which is one of the main objectives of conducting the hearing”, said Tshering Pelden, the assistant judge.
“In exceptional cases where the couples fail to even answer questions regarding the identity of each other, they have no choice but to either dismiss the case or to give them an option to convince us further that their marriage is not fake. In such situation, some couples have used photo or their social media content relevant to their relationship to convince the notary.”
In the last eight months, the notary office issued 1,609 new MC and translated 2,569 MC into English.
According to the civil service providers at the notary office, it witnessed exponential increase in the number of people availing services this year. Each day the office issue 20-25 marriage certificates with at least hundred people gathered outside the office.
Before the pandemic, the office recalls issuing 1,609 MC and translating 553 MC into English.
Drangpon Rabjam (Assistant Judge), Tshering Pelden with the Public Notary office of Thimphu District Court said that surge in the numbers of people obtaining MC and translation is because of the Covid-19 pandemic impact.
“People could not travel abroad for their further studies or other reasons for the last 2 years. With the opening of the international borders around the world, many people are now seeking opportunity to travel abroad,” said the Drangpon Rabjam.
“Most of the time, either of the spouses is taken along as a dependent to work and earn whilst one focus on studies. For that, they need to prove that they are legally married. This has suddenly made our office busier,” added the assistant judge.
Thimphu district court’s public notary office is busier than usual. Parking space full, long que of men and women gathered as early as 8 am in the morning during the weekdays. Legal stamps selling like a hot cake. Such scene has become a common sight since the relaxation of Covid-19 pandemic with couples seeking service to register and obtain marriage certificate (MC).
The office encounter challenges in certifying valid MC to the people with shortage of staffs and with inundated application every day. They try their best to deliver services to people on time sacrificing their lunch time and working overtime often.
Subsequently, the office has to deal with different people showing out their impatience and aggressiveness towards the officers. 
“At times, some people come in without a proper or required documents and without following the procedure or at the last minute (with respect to the dateline they need to follow), and failed to provide the service they wanted, they become aggressive.”
She said, “We have a squeezed office where 9 staff occupies one room and work despite the heat and the crowd. Their work is not just clerical but involves cross verifying even the minute details.”
There are 73 pending cases with MC issuance. “The number is only expected to increase,” said the officials.  The Public Notary Office reminds people to apply for MC or any service early rather than waiting for last minute rush.
The office provides MC in the afternoon. In the morning, people are provided other notary services like attestation of documents, MC translations, bank accounts related documents and processing of documents for organ transplant, child adoption and delivering services.
The public Notary office also have an online registration in G2C service website for people’s convenience. But, the online service in case of MC is only for registration and to seek an appointment date. However, people encounter challenges in availing the online MC registration services.
Tshering Yangzom, 25-years-old, working in a private sector said, “I have registered in the G2C service website but it is inconvenient for us as most of the time the server is down.”
She claimed the G2C service is of no help. She said that it’s as good as walking there personally as they were handed out the printed paper and asked to recheck. Moreover, it takes them whole day although they expected to take not more than an hour as they reached there as per the given time.
Refuting the poor online service at the notary office, Tshering Pelden said, “People often have this misconception regarding the online service. The online service in case of MC is just for registration and to seek an appointment date only.”
According to the officials at the notary office, people still need to visit the office in person along with their witnesses on the given appointment date and time for hearing.
Service availers are normally handed over a printed draft to verify their own details to avoid any typo errors. It takes longer time while carrying out detailed verification of the documents submitted and correcting the typographical errors. Another few minutes is also lost in completing the payment formalities.
Notary office claimed that it used to take almost two weeks in the earlier days to issue the MC due to staff shortage. Moreover, the repeated lockdowns also resulted in a huge pending backlog.
However, the office now has an additional staff. They are able to issue MC within two-three days after the completion of registration. It takes longer time for the people opting online registration. Many applications are rejected because of incomplete forms and documents required. Thus, people are asked to re-apply.