This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Kingdom of Bhutan (Druk Gyalkhap), based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under Bhutan's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) has no legal status.
Bhutan is a small country located in South Asia, and is bounded by China to the north and India to the south. Over 70% of Bhutan is covered under forest, and in fact, Bhutan is set to be the first fully organic country by the year 2020. The capital of Bhutan is Thimphu. The official language is Dzongkha, which is spoken by about 24% of the country. The other languages prevalent in Bhutan are Sharchhopka (28%) and Lhotshamkha (22%). However, neither of these languages enjoy official status. The country’s population in 2017 was approximately 758,288 people. The official religion of Bhutan is Vajrayana Buddhism. Bhutan is a predominantly Buddhist country, with about 75% of the population Lamalistic Buddhist and 22% Hindu.
Constitution & Legal Structure
Bhutan is referred to as a constitutional monarchy. In its modern political history, Bhutan first became a monarchy in 1907, when the Bhutanese public enthroned Ugyen Wangchuck. This lasted until 1998, when the King handed the power of government over to the cabinet and commissioned the writing of Bhutan's first constitution. In 2008, the Constitution was completed and Bhutan became established as a democratic constitutional monarchy. The Constitution acts as the supreme law of the land, while the Supreme Court is the guardian of the Constitution and the final authority on its interpretation. The Bhutanese Constitution is heavily based on Buddhism (as it is the national religion) and was also influenced by the Constitution of South Africa due to its strong protection and focus upon human rights. In fact, the Bhutanese Constitution provides for fundamental rights and includes most of the internationally recognized human rights (e.g., civil and political rights). The system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. Furthermore, the legislative body is comprised of the ruling political party, the opposition, and the National Council appointed by the King.
Constitutional Status of Islamic Law
Islamic law has no constitutional status in Bhutan.
Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law
Islamic law has no official jurisdiction of operation in Bhutan.
Dominant School of Islamic Law
Bhutan has no official school of Islamic law.
Sources of Law for Legal Research
For an extended list of legal resources for this country, see the Library of Congress’s Research Guide, and for a narrative review, see the GlobaLex Foreign Law Research Guide (most updated version, where available). The Constitution is available in the LOC Guide in its original language and at Constitute in English translation. For full versions of past constitutions, amendments, and related legislation, see HeinOnline World Constitutions Illustrated or Oxford Constitutions of the World [subscription required for each].