The party says it wishes to do so ‘in the larger interest of the nation’

Legal: Druk Phuensum Tshogpa submitted its intention to withdraw the libel case it filed against Dasho Paljor J Dorji alias Dasho Benji, in the larger interest of the nation, to Thimphu district court’s bench V, yesterday.

DPT’s legal representative and Drametse-Ngatshang’s member of parliament Ugyen Wangdi said that, if the court is unable to dismiss the charge of sedition as irrelevant, the party ‘although have not robbed the country as alleged’, would withdraw the entire case in the greater interest of the nation.

In all its rebuttals, the party submitted allegations on sedition and usurpation of royal prerogatives were irrelevant to the case and asked the court to dismiss them.

In a January hearing, Ugyen Wangdi submitted that the DPT has conscientiously been cautious in their submissions regarding the ‘most hurtful and grievous accusation’ of usurping the royal prerogative of land kidu and the “preposterous” charge of sedition.

“We cannot but feel that the act of publicly raising such a dangerously divisive issue, is in itself, seditious,” he had said.

“We’re not proud of this case, which we filed to defend truth, to serve the larger interest of the nation and to save the honour of the party. To be accused of ‘robbing the country blind’ by a person for whom we have the highest regard, and who happens to be an opinion leader, especially among the youth, was a grave injury that needed to be healed.”

He said that the party’s initial silence was being seen as admission of guilt, which was why they acted, hoping that Dasho Benji would relent. “Sadly he did not,” he said.

He added that the simple case was now progressively assuming proportions and dimensions never anticipated, and in ways that neither party could be proud of.

“It’s clear that there’ll be no winner in this case, irrespective of the judgment. This case now threatens to inflict unthinkable damage to the Tsa-wa-sum for various reasons,” he said.

Ugyen Wangdi also said that the case was polarising people along party lines.  As the case progresses, he said, the animosity, acrimony and hatred among the people could deepen, and possibly manifest in ways that happen elsewhere.

“Our democracy is still at a vulnerable state and is yet to acquire the resilience to deal with the kind of shocks that the case is beginning to send out. Our emerging democracy needs nurturing that can only come from a polity that is united in its knowledge, wisdom and determination. A divided polity will never achieve this, for vested groups from within and outside the country will exploit it.

DPT said that, while the case is of defamation, the defendant appears to be changing it completely into one of sedition.

“If this is not dismissed by the court, its trial process, let alone the verdict that will be contentious, either way, will test not the foundations of our democracy but the integrity of the Bhutanese society that has already been weakened by divisive politics,” he said.

According to DPT, the plaintiff, the defendant and the court each have a share of responsibility.

“What was never imagined was that a simple defamation case could potentially be transformed into the biggest case of sedition,” he said. “What saddens us is the levelling of accusations of Royal Prerogatives and committing sedition, which in turn opens the subject of sacred relationship between our revered Kings and his subjects in a public court of law.”

Ugyen Wangdi said with each step in the court proceeding, the defendant was going to demean the institution and hurt the sentiments of the people whom he had branded as seditious.

“That we should be misled into playing a part in such a diabolical scheme and spectacle would indeed constitute an act of sedition,” he said.

He added the party was most concerned with the implications of establishing a precedent that undermined the supremacy of the Kings in respect of the three branches of government.

“By being party to what could be a historic blunder, we fear that the court, defendant and the plaintiff would stand guilty of a sin we’ll regret but can’t undo,” Ugyen Wangdi said.

Proceeding with the case, he said, would lead to committing a far greater crime and no matter who won, either party would have defeated the very ends that they profess to serve.

“As we proceed with what we’re seeing, both in court and more outside, are reasons that stare in our face to tell us that it is a battle for self preservation at the cost of the Tsa-wa-Sum,” he said.

Ugyen Wangdi said matters related to the July 19 party convention was a closed chapter. He also submitted evidence  and contested against other allegations such as Trowa theatre, Education City project, Denchi land compensation and Bhutan lottery cases  among others.

The defendant’s legal counsel maintained that the allegations of sedition were part of the case. “It arose from the need to prove how the party robbed the country,” he said.

He added that his client earlier expressed no desire to apologise or allow withdrawal of the case. “However, I’d consult him and submit a written response on Monday.”

The Civil and Criminal Procedure Code’s section 153 states that “at any time after the institution of a suit, a plaintiff may, as against all or any of the defendants abandon his or her suit or a part of his or her claim”.  However, it states that, “the party may be liable for such costs as the Court may award. calculated in accordance with the minimum wage rate.”

By Tshering Palden