Gross National Happiness: A Middle Path to Effective Administration of Justice?

Mr Karma Tshering1

1University Of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

The proposed presentation relates to one of the theoretical frameworks of the PhD thesis.

As a theoretical framework, it was argued that like it guided the economic and social progress of the country, GNH could also influence, guide, and direct the legal development of fair trial principles and help secure justice generally and to self-represented defendants in criminal trials (SRLs) particularly. This assumption was tested by interviewing 16 judges from across the courts in Bhutan. They were asked what a fair trial meant to them and whether GNH has any significance to ensuring fair trials to SRLs. The presentation will reveal the thematic findings of the study. The findings reveal that a fair trial is judicially perceived as a broad legal concept that requires judges in Bhutan to consider a case in a more holistic manner. The findings also reveal that the judges see GNH as a: legislated responsibility of the judiciary to facilitate the pursuit of happiness by the litigants while administering justice; procedure to a fair trial and satisfied litigants and vice versa; an inspiration for the judges to be sensitive and fair and adopt more humane and inclusive approach to administration of justice. The findings, therefore, fundamentally suggest that GNH could also offer a middle path to an effective administration of justice by providing a normative orientation to the judiciary and inspiring and encouraging it to reconsider its conventional justice delivery framework.


Karma Tshering is a PhD candidate at the T C Bernie School of Law, University of Queensland. Karma’s PhD examines self-represented defendants in criminal trials in Bhutan through a comparative assessment of Australian experiences. The research investigates how self-represented criminal defendants are managed in Australia, and explores how self-representation in criminal trials in Bhutan might be managed to ensure a fair trial.

Karma completed a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Legislative Law Honours at the NALSAR University of Law, India, a Master of Arts HSG in International Law at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland, and a Postgraduate Diploma in National Law at the Royal Institute of Management, Bhutan. He joined the civil service of Bhutan as a qualified lawyer and worked with the Judiciary for over six years as a Court Registrar before starting his present academic endeavour.

His research interests include criminal justice, court process, governance and law reform.

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