Rinzin Wangchuk 

Some litigants dissatisfied with lower court’s rulings could not appeal to the High Court (HC) on August 24 after they were asked to deposit 25 percent of the amount involved in the case.

“We were shocked to hear that the appellate court wouldn’t accept an appeal without the appeal bond deposit,” one of the litigants said. “We would have taken the money if the judiciary notified the public about the new rule.”

The Supreme Court’s Guidelines on Appeal 2022 came into effect on August 22.

The guidelines do not allow the affected parties or a party to a case including any other person directly affected by the court’s judgment to appeal without the appeal bond.

The judiciary came up with the new guidelines, according to HC’s officials, to secure the plaintiff’s or judgment creditor’s interest or discourage frivolous delays or prevent unnecessary harassment to a plaintiff or judgment creditor.   

According to the guidelines, the appellate court, under appropriate circumstances, may order the appellant to furnish an appeal bond as a precondition to an appeal in accordance with Section 109.3 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code.

The guidelines stated that the bond amount or the value of the bond amount shall not be less than 25 percent of the amount payable to the judgment creditor according to the subordinate court’s judgment.

“If the appellant fails to comply with the appellate court’s order, the appellate court may dismiss the appeal and order the subordinate court to enforce its judgment,” it stated.

HC’s officials said that the amount deposited as appeal bond will be returned to the appellant or paid to the creditor based on the appellate court’s judgment.

The guidelines also stated that all awards for damages and other settlements related to the subordinate court’s judgment shall be held in abeyance and any injunction or temporary restraining order shall be maintained pending appeal.

When it comes to exemption from the appeal bond, the guidelines stated that if the appellant has a genuine ground of appeal as prescribed in the guidelines, but is not able to furnish the appeal bond, he/she may approach the Supreme Court which shall convene and deliberate on the matter and issue an order accordingly.

Grounds of appeal

The litigants, however, cannot appeal even if they are ready to deposit 25 percent of the total amount without grounds of appeal.

The guidelines stated that the appellant in his/her appeal must present to the appellate court only that portion of the judgment and his/her challenge to that portion, which should include at least one or more of the grounds, that the court made a factual error or an error of law; admitted erroneous or excluded evidence, which otherwise would have changed the outcome of the case.

The other grounds of appeal should also include that the court did not allow the production of relevant evidence; not declare a conflict of interest after parties submitted concrete grounds of conflict of interest; did not follow due process; erroneously assumed jurisdiction; erroneously decided locus standi; and awarded sentence on insufficient evidence; or failed to consider the criminal defendants’ allegation about fetching confession by torture or coercion.

However, parties cannot appeal against judgments rendered based on negotiated settlements; summary judgments; default judgments; reasoned dismissal orders; withdrawn judgments; time extension regarding judgment enforcement as the only ground of appeal; or an appeal regarding his/her conviction if the defendant pleaded guilty to the offence that he/she was charged for in the subordinate court. However, he/she may appeal regarding the gravity of the sentence.

Appeal cost 

The appeal bond of 25 percent will also apply to the litigants appealing to the Supreme Court (SC) along with litigation cost deposit of Nu 45,000.

The appellate court may assign costs on the appellant to be paid to the respondent in civil cases, if the appeal is dismissed, like Nu 45,000 in the case of appeals to the SC if the appellant is the sole party to the case that has appealed from the trial court up to the SC; and the appeal is dismissed or if the judgment of the HC is affirmed by the SC.

The guideline also stated that in cases where the judgment is partially or fully reversed, the appeal cost shall be reimbursed to the appellant.

Notwithstanding anything mentioned above, the appellate court may order reasonable costs to be paid by the appellant based on the outcome of the case keeping in mind the costs and other expenses related to the suit in accordance with the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code of Bhutan 2001 as amended in 2011.

The costs and expenses related to the suit may include cost of transportation; cost of lodge and food; income loss suffered by the respondent/defendant due to court proceedings; appropriate damages for mental distress and trauma suffered by the respondent/defendant; or fees paid by the respondent/defendant to the lawyer to defend his/her case.

Appeals from tribunals or administrative dispute settlement bodies or similar bodies shall be treated as the first instance of appeal, and the appeal cost shall be applied accordingly.