First child-friendly court assures quicker justice

With the inauguration of the family and child court at the Thimphu dzongkhag court yesterday, the judiciary has fulfilled a mandate of Child Care and Protection Act of Bhutan 2011 (CCPAB).

The judiciary established the specialised courts in December last year.

There are 31 child-related cases and 230 family cases registered with the court as of yesterday.

The child court, which is adjacent to the Thimphu dzongkhag administration office near the Centenary Farmers Market, has two rooms.

Unlike other courtrooms, the drangpon’s seat in the family and child court is at the same level as the litigants. There are also no masks on the walls or hanging from the ceiling.

A huge one-way glass window separates the courtroom and the other room, which is smaller. Some adult and children books are placed on a shelf. This room will be used to interact with children and alleged offenders alike while the judge looks on through the glass window from her courtroom.

The witness or victim will be allowed direct interaction with the judge, while the accused will be able to view and hear proceedings via a two-way video conferencing in the courtroom.

A press release issued by the judiciary claim that it will allow the child witness to identify the accused on camera.

Supreme Court’s registrar general Tshering Dorji said such facility will also enable the judge to ask questions to the child and the accused without any direct contact. “The child will not have to face the alleged offenders to ensure that the child is not intimidated while the court proceedings are on.”

The family and child bench drangpon, Pasang Wangmo, said the bench was established in line with the Convention on the Rights of Children 1990, and the CCPAB. “The CCPAB requires the court to provide the right care and protection to safeguard the rights of the child, who is either a victim or a in conflict with the law.”

Drangpon Passang Wangmo said the court, equipped with modern amenities such as CCTV camera, will not only facilitate the access of child justice but it will also help in speedy disposal of child-related cases.

The specialisation is expected to bring about uniformity, accuracy, precision, and predictability of judgment and informed interpretation of laws.

The court’s renovation was funded by Save the Children Italy.

Meanwhile, matrimonial and money lending cases top the list of cases in the country. Of the 5,947 cases heard at the courts across the country, 3,007 were monetary and 1,420 were matrimonial cases in 2016.

In 2015, 10,719 civil cases reached the judiciary, of which 5,347 were monetary cases, an increase of six percent from 2014. This was followed by 4,733 matrimonial and divorce cases, a corresponding decrease of six percent.

Tshering Palden

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