Embezzlement case involving the gup has now been referred to the High Court

MB Subba

The Zhemgang dzongkhag court has decided to refer the embezzlement case involving the Goshing gup to the High Court in view of a conflict of interest with the arrival of a new drangpon.

Drangpon Kinley Tenzin, who was appointed in November last year, had prosecuted the case while he was with the Office of Attorney General (OAG).

The parties involved in the case were summoned to the dzongkhag court and briefed about the court’s decision to refer the case, it was learnt.

The Panbang drungkhag court in December 2019 had sentenced Goshing Gup Sangay Lethro to 10 years and three months in prison for embezzlement, solicitation, fraudulent claims and official misconduct.

He was also ordered to restitute Nu 2.9M to the government.  However, he decided to appeal to the dzongkhag court.

The legal proceeding has left the gewog without a gup for more than two years and seven months.

Sangay Lethro was suspended in July 2018.  The gewog’s wait for a gup could prolong further if he decides to exhaust the appeal process.

Sangay Lethro preferred not to comment.

Sangay Lethro is also the Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) chairperson.  This means that the DT has been functioning without its thrizin.

Goshing Mangmi Pema Samdrup said that the suspended gup receives 50 percent of his salary.

“I sign documents on behalf of the gup. But the public service delivery gets delayed when I have to travel as officiating gup,” he said.


What happens next?

There is no provision in the election Act to call a bye-election in such a case.

As per Section 577 of the Election Act, a bye-election is called when the seat of an elected member of the local government becomes vacant on death or resignation or his/her election is declared void.

The gewog tshogde of Goshing remains without a gup for three and a half years should the exhaustion of the legal proceeding take until October when the gewog tshogde completes its term.

The Goshing gup’s case indicates that a gewog can remain without gup for even five years should he or she remain suspended from the beginning of the term.

According to the election Act, bye-election can be held if he tenders his resignation voluntarily.

The Goshing gup’s case has also raised questions about the lack of uniformity in the treatment of corruption cases.

Those following corruption cases, including that of Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen’s, have questioned the uniformity in the application of laws and treatment of officials involved in corruption allegations.

The home minister was found guilty of false insurance claims by the Thimphu dzongkhag court and by the High Court.  He has appealed to a larger bench of the High Court but continues to go to office.

Public officials shall be suspended during the investigation if his or her attendance is likely to impede the investigation proceeding or when there is a likelihood of available evidence being influenced, removed or tampered from the official record, which may be under his or her subordinate’s guardianship, according to Section 167 of the ACC Act.

In the case of the labour minister’s director general (DG), the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) decided to wait for the final court verdict before taking any action against the DG.

After the ACC wrote to the RCSC to suspend the DG, the RCSC stated that the decision was based on Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations.

Section 19.10.1 of the BCSR 2018 states that suspension shall be discretionary and not mandatory in its application, whereas Section 19.10.5 of BCSR also states that once charges are filed, public interest should be the guiding factor in deciding to suspend a civil servant.