Nima Wangdi

High Court yesterday dismissed the petition of the seven disqualified local leader candidates submitted on November 29.

The Court also told letigants that the case should route through dzongkhag court.

The High Court dismissed the case as per sections 44, 167 and 168 of the Election Act 2008.

Section 44 says: “A court shall not have jurisdiction to question the legality of any action taken or of any decision given by the Election Commission or its officers or by other person appointed under this Act in connection with any election, except upon receiving an election petition or an election appeal.”

Section 167 stated that the authority to try an election petition relating to an election to the National Assembly or National Council should be the High Court.

According to section 168, any petition regarding local government elections should go to dzongkhag court. “The authority to try an election petition relating to an election to a local government shall be the dzongkhag court of the dzongkhag concerned,” the section states.

Litigants, six gup and a tshogpa candidate, said this is a dead end. “We don’t find other ways to pursue the case,” one of the former gups said.

Thimphu’s Soe gup Kencho Dorji claimed that he neither misused government funds nor committed a crime. “Still I have to endure this. I don’t even know the charges against me,” he said, adding that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) would not tell me what the case is.

Candidates said, whether or not they get convicted, the opportunity to take part in the elections is slipping through their hands. The candidates went to the extent that they offered to sign an undertaking to refund all election expenses if they were convicted. “I even offered a security deposit,” Guma gup candidate Ugyen Khandu said.

They said they appealed the High Court as per clause 5 of Article 23 in the Constitution but still got dismissed. The clause states: “Any disqualification under section four of this article shall be adjudicated by the High Court on an election petition filed pursuant to a law made by parliament under section seven of this article.”

The candidates said that ACC should not deprive candidates of the opportunity to take part in the elections based on mere complaints that they have received. “The commission should first evaluate if the case merits investigation and explain about the case to the person who is involved,” they said.

They said Article 7, clause 16 on fundamental rights in the Constitution states that a person charged for a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in accordance with the law. “We have not been convicted to be disqualified.”

The litigants are Kaka, the Lunana Gup candidate in Gasa, Punakha’s Guma gup candidate Ugyen Khandu, Trongsa’s Korphu gup candidate Sangay Khandu, Soe Gup candidate Kencho Dorji in Thimphu, Chukha’s Chapcha gup candidate Tobgay, Nyisho gup candidate Phurpa Dorji in Wangdue, Dhangchu gup candidate Pemba in Wangdue, Korphu Mangimi candidate Yeshi Nidup, and Punakha’s Changyul tshogpa candidate Namgay Bidha.

Seven of the nine local leaders, whose audit clearances were revoked after dhamngoi zomdu, appealed to the High Court.

RAA revoked their audit clearances after receiving letters from ACC stating that there are cases against these individuals. Of the nine, seven are gup candidates and one each mangmi and tshogpa candidates. They are all incumbents.