Clarifying the confusion

In clarifying and reaffirming who is responsible for implementing judgments the courts dispense, the Supreme Court has sent out a strong message.

The highest appellate body and the interpreter of the Constitution has notified that elected members, if convicted and sentenced for a day, compoundable or not, will have to leave office. This will have implications. The Supreme Court has recently sentenced the Kawang gup who is also the Thimphu dzongkhag tshogdu chairperson. The gup will be removed from his post going by the Supreme Court’s notification.

The rule is already clear with election laws requiring the disqualification of elected leaders if convicted of a criminal offence. However, there seem to be some confusion if elected leaders should be removed from their office if convicted for criminal offence.  The notification spells out this.

The notification also comes as a reminder for elected leaders to be clean while holding a public office. A person with criminal record is not allowed to contest elections. The rule is clear and the reasoning simple. A person with tainted record, especially having convicted for criminal offence, shouldn’t represent his people.  They should not be even getting the ticket or the clearance to contest. With the local government election around the corner and the third parliamentary election not very far, the notification will clear a lot of air.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court notification also reminds prosecuting authorities like the Royal Bhutan Police and the Office of the Attorney General to inform parent or relevant agencies to inform about the court verdicts for necessary actions.

The notification follows a letter from the election office to inform them about the decisions the courts take on cases in the court. The Anti Corruption Commission had already expressed concerns for not following up on judgments passed by courts.

Although the rules are clear, it seems, from the concerns of the Constitutional offices, that there is no seriousness in following up on court judgments. Courts will not follow up on implementation. Their role stops with passing the judgment. It is the responsibility of the executive to follow up. That’s why we have separation of power among the three arms of the government.

There are agencies with clear responsibilities. The Royal Bhutan Police and the Office of the Attorney General prosecutes cases. Criminals are either locked up straight away after the verdict for serious crimes or given time to pay thrimthue for compoundable sentences. In some cases, agencies are asked to recover proceeds of crime and take administrative action.  Going by the ACC’s findings, the response in following up is not encouraging.

Police and OAG should inform relevant agencies on the decisions of the court. The responsibility then shifts to the agencies. Like the ACC pointed out in its annual report, the whole purpose of criminal justice system is defeated if implementation is not done or delayed.

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