Thrimchi Lyonpo Tshering Wangchuk inaugurated specialised benches in Thimphu’s dzongkhag court yesterday. The court now has two benches for criminal cases and a bench each for civil, commercial and family- and child-related cases.

Having specialised benches will greatly help render swift, fair and just adjudication. Otherwise, justice system could easily become harassment, which can lead to people losing trust and confidence in the system.

Specialised benches for different cases are necessary also because of increasing nature and number of offences. According to the Annual Report of the Judiciary 2015, matrimonial and money lending cases top the list of cases in the country, followed by criminal cases like assault and battery, larceny, robbery, cases pertaining to protected species and harmful substances. About 24,211 cases were filed in dzongkhag courts, High Court, and the Supreme Court last year, of which 18,720 cases were registered for adjudication.

Besides helping render swift, fair and just adjudication, specialisation could, as Thrimchi Lyonpo said, also bring about uniformity, accuracy, precision, predictability of judgment and informed interpretation of the laws. As we speak, there are 1,516 pending cases, of which 46 have been pending for more than a year.

Specialisation of court benches has started from Thimphu. All the other district courts too should soon have specialised benches so that people can avail of swift, fair and just services from judicial offices.

The recent case of a mentally ill woman from Wangdue who became unmanageable during the hearing gives us all the more reason to have more specialised benches in the courts. How does our criminal justice system deal with mentally ill offenders, for instance? Should they even be made to go through legal process? In other words, are they even fit to stand trial? How should we treat such cases? These are pertinent questions that our lawmakers and legal experts should contemplate because mental illness in the criminal justice system so is a growing concern.

More specialised benches will mean that we can deal with the cases and dispense fair judgement. More importantly, we will be able to clear backlog of cases in the courts that result from limited time and growing number and nature of cases.