Legal: The two-year-long court battle over a Facebook post by Dasho Paljor J Dorji that accused Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) of robbing “the country blind” has come to an end.

The 10-day appeal period on the verdict handed down by the Thimphu dzongkhag court that instructs DPT to pay defendant Dasho Paljor J Dorji Nu 450,000 as compensation ended yesterday. DPT did not show up in court to appeal the verdict.

The defendant had asked for Nu 75 million as compensation.  The verdict, however, stated the amount claimed was unreasonable.

The failure to appeal in a higher court means that the party will have to pay the compensation amount. The monetary compensation is for “all the harassment, mental agony, infamy, indignity and inconvenience, which he has undergone” because of the defamation case.

DPT leaders, including Opposition Leader (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho, refused to comment on the issue.

The compensation was determined considering the nature and background of the case, the social standing and milieu in which the defendant belongs, and taking into account the fact that the defendant is a senior citizen of distinguished accomplishments and a well-regarded figure in the country.

The case was registered in September 2014. The plaintiff offered to withdraw the case in April 2015 and the verdict allowed the party to do so.

DPT had initially claimed that Dasho Paljor J Dorji on August 15, 2014, had intentionally and maliciously defamed the party by making a defamatory online comment in his Facebook post that read: “After having robbed the country blind DPT has the gumption to raise its voice? Hahahaha.”

Even as the court allowed DPT to withdraw the case, the ligation has proven costly for DPT. The party’s image has been affected by a prima facie sedition case that the court has found.

Dasho Paljor J Dorji’s legal counsel Younten Dorji submitted video footage of one of the party’s meeting held in July, 2013 in Thimphu where some of its members made comments and raised issues that the defendant claimed were seditious.

The verdict states that the examination of the video clip showed that there is a prima facie case against DPT.

However, the sedition case is expected to be against individuals rather than DPT as a political party because “the scurrilous, sacrilegious and treasonous speeches” made at the meeting were at the individual level.

One of the arguments left for DPT is that the statements made by some of its members were not the official views of the party. Otherwise, the party faces danger of dissolution.

The electoral laws say that a political party would be dissolved if a sedition case against the party is proven.

The verdict stated: “It’s the opinion of this court that the individuals who made the scurrilous, sacrilegious and treasonous speeches at the meeting have violated the laws of sedition and treason as defined in the Penal Code of Bhutan.”

A preliminary examination of the video clip revealed that there is a prima facie case of sedition against the party. The court took cognizance of the crimes and to ‘ensure that those guilty are punished’.

The court has ordered the Attorney General to direct and coordinate with investigating agencies to conduct thorough investigations into the allegations of sedition and file appropriate criminal charges against the perpetrators in court.

The Office of Attorney General is likely to investigate the prima facie sedition case since DPT failed to appeal the verdict.

MB Subba