HC overrules concurrent judgement  

The High Court’s (HC) bench I overruled a Thimphu  district court verdict involving a man from Tongzhang in Trashiyangtse, who was convicted by the lower court for possessing  controlled substances in custody.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) appealed to the HC after the Thimphu district court’s bench five passed a concurrent five years in prison judgment for Jigme, who was found guilty of possessing 72 capsules of Spasmoproxyvon (SP) in the prison.

Thimphu district court’s bench three issued concurrent judgement after Jigme was convicted to five years and six months in prison.

The OAG appealed to the HC seeking clarification whether the sentence should be imposed concurrently or consecutively although the verdict states that it is concurrent sentencing.

OAG officials explained that they appealed because they were not sure how the sentence would be served because one verdict was for five years and six months and the other was for five years.

Police forwarded Jigme’s case to the OAG, claiming that on September 12 last year, Jigme was taken to Thimphu district court for a hearing on SP+ case.

Police, in their charges, claimed that police constables on duty found 72 pieces of Spasmoprovon (SP) and a packet of chewing tobacco from Jigme’s jacket and trousers on September 12 after he was brought back to custody from the court.

OAG then charged Jigme for illicit transaction of controlled substances.

The HC reasoned that the verdict was reversed because Jigme was in custody when he was charged for possessing 72 capsules of SP and he was already being prosecuted for the illicit transaction of 72 capsules of SP+ when the alleged crime was committed.

“There was no possibility Jigme could possess 72 capsules of SP when he was in custody unless he colluded with police,” the verdict stated. “He was under police supervision day and night.”

The verdict also stated that if Jigme possessed the controlled substance with the help of police, there was no investigation report and charges drawn. It also stated that although Jigme met his wife in the court premises that day, the wife gave a verbal statement that she did not give the controlled substance to him. “The police on duty, who escorted Jigme to court, also gave a verbal statement that although Jigme met his wife because she was waiting in the court premises that day, they only met for a short duration in front of him.”

The HC stated that since the prosecutor could not prove how the 72 capsules of SP and a packet of chewing tobacco was in Jigme’s jacket and trousers, the court could not uphold the lower court’s judgment. “There is the possibility of entrapment and miscarriage of justice if he is convicted.”

It was learnt that Jigme submitted before the lower court that he found the 72 capsules of SP and the packet of chewing tobacco from the police van and that he had intended to report it to police.

That Jigme had concealed the controlled substances in his undergarment and jacket clearly shows that he intended to illicitly transact the substances, the lower court judgment stated.

The HC stated that for a fair trial of the defendant, the evidence must corroborate with each other and the court should be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. “The court gives the benefit of doubt to Jigme,” the verdict stated.

While the acquittal or the concurrent judgment does not make any difference to Jigme since he will have to serve his five years and six months imprisonment irrespective of the acquittal or concurrent judgment, it raises questions as to how a person in custody could possess the controlled substance.

Sources who are following the case closely say it establishes the word that has been going around about controlled substances being available in prisons. “This is probably one of the ways the controlled substances are supplied inside the prisons,” an official said.

Tashi Dema

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