Not forthcoming, though, was proof of damage to the party as a result of the defendant’s Facebook posting

Libel: Druk Phuensum Tshogpa representatives presented seven documents as evidence against Dasho Paljor J Dorji in its libel case, but did not show any proof that the party had suffered damages during the evidence hearing yesterday at the Thimphu district court‘s Bench V.

The only indication of damages it suffered, submitted yesterday, was that the party was losing its registered members in droves.

Opposition member and Nubi Tangsibji member of parliament (MP) Nidup Zangpo said that, following the posting of the statement in the social media, what his party suffered were loss of trust and confidence in the party.

“These damages are about sentiments and emotions that are intangible and hard to prove in real or physical terms,” he said, adding that a lacuna has been created among party members.

Trashiyangtse-Bumdelling-Jamkhar MP Duptho and Nubi Tangsibji MP Nidup Zangpo replaced Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi to represent the party in court.

They submitted evidence to prove that Dasho Paljor J Dorji’s August 2014 Facebook post was defamatory to the party, that it violated the public service code of conduct requirement to remain apolitical, and violated sections 317 and 320 of the Penal Code of Bhutan, among others.

A copy of the opposition leader’s letter to the prime minister, requesting his intervention to take appropriate action against the defendant for posting a defamatory statement on Facebook, and violating the code of conduct of public servants, was also submitted.

The duo also submitted a copy of the prime minister’s letter to the opposition leader, where he has refused to take action against the defendant, on the basis that the defendant holds a public service position outside the purview of the government.

“It proves that the prime minister refused to take action against the defendant as the advisor to the National Environment Commission, despite him being the chairperson of the commission,” Nidup Zangpo said.

“This led the plaintiff to initiate criminal charges against the defendant, after all rules of procedure were exhausted.”

The representatives submitted a copy of the royal command to the chairman of the commission, appointing the defendant as the special advisor to the commission.  They said the command explicitly includes the provision of the office and personal assistant, implying that the defendant was required to function within the purview of the NEC’s mandate, and within the framework of the rules and regulations of the royal civil service commission (RCSC).

DPT also submitted a copy of the staff directory of the commission, and commission members’ list, to prove the prime minister was the chairman, and that he ‘has every authority to take appropriate action against the defendant’.

A copy of Dasho Paljor J Dorji’s last month’s pay slip was also submitted to the court, stating that the defendant received the salary and allowances of a deputy minister for a duration and nature that far exceeded any normal short term contractual, elected, or a consultancy employment.

“The nature of the employment is long term and very much an integral part of an agency that is governed by the rules and regulations of the RCSC,” Nidup Zangpo said. “The evidences prove that the defendant is a public servant, receiving his pay and allowances from the consolidated fund.”

The interpretation of article 30 (2) of the Constitution, which states “The Pay Commission shall recommend to the government revisions in the structure of the salary, allowances, benefits, and other emoluments of the Royal Civil Service, the Judiciary, the Members of Parliament and Local governments, the holders and members of the Constitutional offices and all other Public servants with due regards to the economy of the Kingdom and provisions of this Constitution,” clearly makes Dasho Paljor J Dorji a public servant, Nidup Zangpo said.

“Having established that the defendant is a public servant, and that too an integral part of an agency governed by the RCSC, the principle of natural justice requires that the defendant should follow the minimum code of conduct to remain apolitical,” he said.

“We cannot ignore the intention of the existing laws, even though not explicit for a specific individual, and make an exception for an individual,” he submitted.

Laws require all public servants to be apolitical, except for members of the National Assembly.

“Since, the defendant is not a member of the National Assembly, the minimum requirement of code of conduct to remain apolitical, as per the RCSC Act, applies to the defendant,” Nidup Zangpo said.

However, the representatives did not submit as to what laws the defendant could be penalised under in the case.  There were no prayers at the end of their written submission, but the representatives said it remained the same as submitted earlier.

Outside the court, the plaintiff representatives said they came only to submit the evidences and left the court a little bemused after the hearing.

The defendant’s lawyer will present his evidence on March 12.

By Tshering Palden