HC increases sentence for two involved in sander wood business

Upholds lower court’s judgment for 10 men involved in it

The High Court altered the judgment for two men involved in sander wood case rendered by Paro dzongkhag court’s bench I and upheld the judgment for 10 other individuals.

Paro dzongkhag court’s bench I on January 10 this year imprisoned 12 men, Chencho, Kencho Wangdi, Sonam Dorji, Pema Dorji, Tashi Gyeltshen, Sangay, Kunzang, Dawa Peljor, Nima Tshering, Kipchu, Tashi Dorji and Thinley and to one year in prison for violating section 490 of the Penal Code.

Section 490 of the Penal Code states, “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of risking the protected species, if the defendant unlawfully hunts, destroys, captures, collects, transacts or deals in the sale of any animal or plant species or its parts or other conducts which shall be harmful or risky to the survival of such species recognised as protected under the law.”

The OAG attorney, Phuntshok Namgyal, appealed to the High Court that although sander wood is not included as a totally protected plant in the Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan 1995, Bhutan is party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) since 2002 and sander wood is a protected species in CITES.

The attorney also cited the Constitution’s section 10 of article 1 and section 25 of article 10, which states that international conventions, treaties, protocols and agreements Bhutan entered into shall be deemed as law.

He also cited the Supreme Court order, issued on January 1, 2015, which states that the offence of risking of protected species should be graded a fourth-degree felony.

The HC increased the sentence for Thinley and Sangay, who were arrested with 252kgs and 468kgs of sander wood, from one year to three years. Thinley was arrested on July 7, 2015, and Sangay on July 4, 2015. The sentencing is non-compoundable.

The judgment stated that since Bhutan is party to CITES since 2002 and sander wood is included in appendix II of CITES, Thinley and Sangay were found guilty of violating section 490 of the Penal Code and the offence, according to SC order, shall be graded a fourth degree felony.

The High Court upholding the lower court’s verdict for Chencho, Kencho Wangdi, Sonam Dorji, Pema Dorji, Tashi Gyeltshen, Dawa Penjor, Nima Tshering, Kipchu, Kunzang and Tashi Dorji, stated that the crime occurred in 2014 and that the SC order issued on January 1, 2015, cannot be applied retrospectively.

Chencho was arrested on November 11, 2014 with 326kgs of sander wood; Kencho Wangdi with 136kgs on September 25, 2014; Sonam Dorji with 517kgs on September 24, 2014; Pema Dorji with 530kgs on June 27, 2014; Tashi Gyeltshen with 659kgs on May 9, 2014; Dawa Penjor with 1,409kgs on August 1, 2014; Nima Tshering with 1,183kgs on November 18, 2014 and Kunzang with 1,094kgs on October 13, 2014. Kipchu and Tashi Dorji were charged after Dawa Penjor submitted before the court that the consignment belonged to them and the court convicted them.

The 10 men can pay thrimthue in lieu of their prison terms.

Tashi Dema

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