After lower court exonerated him due to a lack of evidence

Chencho Dema | Punakha 

The High Court sentenced a 39-year-old man who had been cleared of the charges of raping his stepdaughter, then 17 years old, by the Punakha dzongkhag court.

The step-father was convicted as per Penal Code of Bhutan 2011 (Amendment) section 183 and 184. The Punakha court acquitted the accused on September 6, 2022 due to lack of evidence. 

 The high court verdict stated while the law needs corroboration in such circumstances, the statement of the victim to one of her friends, matron, and to the police admitted by this Bench as a proof are adequate and enough to convict and sentence the accused. 

 The amended section, 183, states that a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of rape of a child above the age of 12 years if the defendant commits any act of sexual intercourse against a child between the ages of 12 to 18 years. However, consensual sex between children of 16 years and above shall not be deemed to be rape. 

The offence of rape of a child above the age of 12 years shall be a felony of the second degree according to the amended section 184. 

“Physical evidence is neither predictive nor essential for conviction on such a nature of cases, verbal evidence and effectiveness of child victim’s testimony is enough to sentence,” the verdict stated. 

A complaint was brought to Punakha police station on September 10, 2021. The complaint stated that the student (victim) had informed the school administration that her stepfather had been abusing her since 2019.

The Office of Attorney General forwarded the case to the Punakha court on May 9, 2022. On October 10, 2022, OAG filed an appeal with the high court after the judge cleared the suspect.