Discrimination based on caste violates Constitution: PM

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said the caste related discrimination case that has occurred in some sections of the country and the Gelephu incident is illegal.

“In this case it is obvious that the fundamental rights have been breached,” Lyonchoen said during the Meet the Press session last week.

The Gelephu drungkhag court on April 12 dismissed the case of a 36-year-old man, who alleged discrimination based on caste. He first lodged the case with Gelephu police in January this year, who forwarded it to Samteling gewog, which was then forwarded to the to Gelephu drungkhag court on April 7. The court dismissed the case saying it was unconstitutional to conduct a further trial and said that the case should be filed to the High Court or the Supreme Court.

“I’m alarmed that such discriminatory practices are still going on,” Lyonchoen said.

Lyonchoen said that if any victim wants to take such matters to the court of law, the government stands prepared to assist them by providing legal assistance.

He said that all people are equal in the country and that the Constitution makes it clear that every Bhutanese enjoys equality as a fundamental right.

Article 7 Section 15 of the Constitution states: “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal and effective protection of the law and shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of race, sex, language, religion, politics or other status.”

There are also fundamental duties, the Prime Minister said. Article 8 Section 3 of the Constitution states, “A Bhutanese citizen shall foster tolerance, mutual respect and spirit of brotherhood amongst all the people of Bhutan transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities.”

All Bhutanese are equal transcending religious, linguistic, and regional or sectoral diversities, he said.

“So it is clear. Every Bhutanese has the right to demand to be treated equally,” he said. “And then we also have responsibility to treat every other Bhutanese equally.”

Lyonchoen also cited the Marriage Act that prohibits such discrimination. “A person has the right to marry any other person, irrespective of status, caste, wealth or appearance, provided the persons contracting the marriage thereof have expressly consented to their marriage.”

Tshering Palden

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