Upholding the verdict of the Thimphu dzongkhag court, the High Court (HC) on November 30 ruled in favour of Yangphel Archery Committee in a case against team Golden Arrows.

The judgement stated that in any sports competition, the decision of the umpire and referees will be considered final and binding. “If the decision is found to be biased, then the organising committee of the competition holds the absolute right to hand out the decision.”

Team Golden Arrows appealed to the HC on December 20 last year, reasoning that the members found the lower court judgment unsatisfactory.

However, the HC cited section 96.1 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code and section 94 of the Evidence Act and stated that the plaintiff could not prove the claims of the involvement of a player from the team in a physical assault incident during the match.

The HC judgment also stated that the plaintiff has not adhered to the Bhutan Archery Federation’s (formerly known as National Archery Federation of Bhutan) and Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association’s (BIGSA) regulations.

The incident happened on August 18, 2015, during the 19th Yangphel Open Archery Tournament, where the committee disqualified two teams – the Golden Arrows and the Bhutan Festival, after it found that the two teams were involved in a brawl during a match.

Team Golden Arrows in their petition to the dzongkhag court stated that only the team captain was involved in the brawl and there was no reason for disqualifying the whole team.

During trial, eyewitnesses and match officials revealed that at least three players from team Golden Arrows were involved in the brawl. A video clip was also presented to the court as proof.

The committee stated that since three players of the six registered were clearly involved in the fight, a team with just three players couldn’t compete in the tournament.

The HC, in its verdict, also stated that the video recording confirms that a brawl had occurred during the match, which makes it a criminal case and should have been routed through the police.

Yangphel Archery Committee president, Tsewang Rinchen, said the committee is happy that the case was in their favour in the dzongkhag as well as the HC. “Following the verdict, there are pending administrative penalties that the organising committee will impose on the team,” he said. “But more than the team, it is a landmark victory for sports in Bhutan.”

Tsewang Rinchen said that the decision is considered landmark because it protects sports promoters and organisers from individuals who use the law to harass and disrupt tournaments based on personal agenda. “And it is historic because it sets a precedence and is the first of its kind.”

The Yangphel Open Archery Tournament was not organised since 2015 because of the on-going case. “Given the results, the committee is reconsidering whether we should continue organising the tournament or not,” Tsewang Rinchen said.

He said that if the tournament resumes, some of the members of team Golden Arrows would receive a lifetime ban.

Members of the team Golden Arrows did not comment.

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang