No conflict of interest says Supreme Court

Judiciary: The Haa district court judge will preside over the lhakhang Karpo case after the Supreme Court Chief Justice gave the green signal in an order that will be dispatched today.

Chief Justice Tshering Wangchuk in his order said that there is no need for the judge to recuse himself from the case after a thorough study of his submission.

Conflict of interest cases should involve matters directly related to money or a family member.

“Further, the parties in the case have not raised any conflict of interest issue in the court,” the Supreme Court order said.

On the other hand, sending a judge from a neighbouring district to decide the case could incur huge expenses to the government as the litigants can’t be referred to other district courts.

The Chief Justice also said that the Haa district court being a trial  court could decide over the case meaning even if the parties are not content with its decision they could still appeal.

The Haa district judge, Duba Drukpa, verbally submitted to the Chief Justice that it would not make a difference for him and that there would not be conflict of interest personally.

The Haa drangpon asked for the guidance of the Chief Justice after the Office of the Attorney General filed criminal cases against seven individuals including the foreign minister, Rinzin Dorje, in connection with the lhakhang Karpo corruption case at the Haa district court.

In a letter dated January 26, ee asked whether him being dorji puen (religious sibling) of the minister would contravene sections 73 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code 2001, and section 111 of the Judicial Service Act 2007.

Section 73 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code 2001 on conflict of interest states that a case shall not be assigned to a drangpon who may have or be reasonably construed to have conflict of interests in the matter at hand.

“A Drangpon shall disqualify himself from participating in any proceedings in which he is unable to decide the matter impartially or in which he has conflict of interest,” section 111 of the Judicial Service Act 2007 states.

The Anti-Corruption Commission, earlier this month, said the conflict of interest issue while important to be addressed to dispense justice, could also be an impediment in the judicial system.

“It is possible that some judges might make some conflict of interest excuses and push the difficult cases on to other judges which would not be fair,” a judge said.

Judges also said besides there are higher courts to keep check and balance on the judges and their judgments, when appealed. If found, there could be consequences.

“Besides, parties to the case would point out should there be any conflict of interest for the judge in the case,” a judge said.

Tshering Palden