Tashi Dema

After establishing an enforcement unit in April last year, High Court (HC) managed to enforce judgment for 12 cases, some of them dating back to 1986.

This reduced the number of non-enforced cases before HC to 101, mostly civil cases related to monetary, land, inheritance and child alimony. There are also criminal cases, where defendants have to pay monetary compensation to victims.

The unit, managed by the registrar general of HC and a senior bench clerk, reviews cases to ensure that all the judgments are enforced. It is reviewing 47 cases as of now.

The judiciary, including the Supreme Court, does not have an office dedicated to enforcing judgments. While respective judges or clerks enforce the judgement in other courts, register generals enforce the cases in the five benches in Thimphu dzongkhag court.

HC officials said that many cases could not be enforced, as people change addresses and it is difficult to locate litigants.

The officials said they sent orders to gups and if litigants don’t turn up, they will issue a notification stating that they are closing the case.

“Some cases date back to 1979 and 1986. It’s time we close the case,” an official said.

Another official explained that in most alimony cases, litigants do not report to court even if the child turned 18 years. “In some monetary and land cases, the litigants have come to mutual understanding and resolved the cases.”

He said that they have followed up some cases and sent orders to relevant agencies for implementation of the judgment.

Another official said proper review and documentation is must to ensure all cases are enforced.

Officials also said that while enforcing the cases, they are asking guarantors to produce bank balance so that they could directly order banks to make payments if the litigant does not comply with the order.

“The common practice in our country is that everyone becomes a guarantor and the guarantor needs another guarantor. This will stop with the present practise,” an official said.

Lack of proper enforcement of cases has left people doubting if judgments for civil cases are taken seriously. “In criminal cases, defendants are taken directly to prison, ensuring proper enforcement,” a Thimphu resident, Tshering, said. “But in civil cases, enforcement is weak until the plaintiff follows it up.”

She said that it was difficult for litigants, as court officials kept changing. “With the unit in place, litigants could directly request for enforcement of judgments now.”

HC officials, however, said lack of manpower could impede the enforcement. “Deploying adequate manpower is must.”