Cutting their nose to spite their face?

Trongsa DT decides to discontinue alternative dispute resolution in wake of detained gup issue 

Judiciary: Judicial services across the country could be affected if Trongsa dzongkhag tshogdu (DT)’s recent proposed change in the local government rules and regulations clause of mediation and conciliation of civil cases comes through, according to local leaders and villagers.

The DT recently passed a resolution to discontinue alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in villages, after the district court detained Langthel gup, Lham Dorji, for 24 hours for contempt of court.  The gup had failed to show up in court as a witness for a monetary dispute the gewog had earlier resolved.

“Local leaders want to hand over the mediation and conciliation of civil cases to the judiciary,” DT chairperson, Tashi Pendhen said.

Tashi Pendhen said the review was proposed largely to apprise the judiciary of the problems local leaders faced during mediation and conciliation of issues.

“It’s also to avoid overlapping of responsibilities in the gewogs, and seek protection and immunity from such detention while exercising ADR,” Tashi Pendhen said.

Currently, civil cases on land, inheritance, matrimonial and monetary in villages are handled by tshogpas and the gewog.  Section 295 of the local government rules and regulations states that a mangmi (community representative) shall mediate and conciliate disputes of civil nature, referred by tshogpas in gewogs and forward unresolved issues to the gewog mediation committee.

“But in absence of such a committee, the mangmi handles the cases from chiwogs,” Langthel mangmi, Rinzin Wangchuk, said, that the gup also negotiates cases in the absence of a mangmi.

Every month, a gewog settles around 10 civil cases referred by the chiwog, accounting to 60-70 percent of disputes annually.  For instance, on March 9, a case of extramarital affairs from Namthel village in Langthel was forwarded to the gewog in absence of its village tshogpa.  Another case of trespassing was also forwarded from Dangdung.

Section 297 of the local government rules and regulation states that gewog tshogdu (GT) members will mediate and conciliate disputes of a civil nature, referred by the people in his/her chiwog, and forward unresolved issues to the mangmi.

Baling tshogpa, Namgye said, even in chiwogs, tshogpas resolve at least 60-70 percent of the disputes from the villages.

“Only those cases, which tshogpas can’t settle, are forwarded to the gewog,” Namgye said.

When negotiations fail at the gewog, the cases are then forwarded to the district court.  The gewogs also facilitate tracing individuals required in a court of law, regardless of where they are from.

But after the February 12 incident, local leaders are still anxious about resolving cases, despite receiving some training on law.

“Since, all GT members, mangmi and gup mediate and conciliate these cases with limited knowledge, we fear of consequences for erring,” Yuendrocholing tshogpa, Tshering said.

For these reasons, DT decided to hand over ADR to the judiciary, even though the decision can impact the people.

“Should the clause be amended, every case arising from the village, whether minor or major, has to go to court,” Namgye said.

But forwarding a case to the court would affect the villager’s farm works, because of the need to travel to the dzongkhag administration.

If ADR is handed over to the judiciary, petty cases, such as crop damage from stray cattle, will have to be forwarded to the court.

“Under such circumstance, the case, which is resolved in a couple of hours in the gewog, could take months in court,” Rinzin Wangchuk said.

Rinzin Wangchuk said the poor would be unable to avail judiciary services because of the costs involved in travelling to the court.

However, some drangpoens reasoned that discontinuing ADR in chiwogs and gewogs would have little impact on the judiciary, because it will keep doing its job at its pace.

“But more than the court being overburdened, it will be the people, who would directly be affected, if ADR is discontinued,” a drangpoen said.

Tempa Wangdi, Langthel

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