Yangchen C Rinzin

The High Court’s (HC) larger bench yesterday upheld HC’s bench three’s judgment that convicted Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen to two months in prison for claiming false vehicle insurance worth Nu 226,546.

The home minister’s attorney and other defendants had appealed to the court contending that the lower court erred in the application of legal provisions.

The larger bench’s judgement stated that, after a thorough review, it upheld the lower court’s decision.  The High Court convicted the Lyonpo in October last year.

It also stated that the charges filed by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) were proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The HC’s bench three, in its judgment rendered in October last year, stated the minister’s statements on claiming insurance for his vehicle were inconsistent.

It stated that Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen, in his intimation letter to the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (RICBL), claimed his Toyota Prado met with an accident at Lamperi on the Thimphu-Wangdue highway on July 21, 2016. “In another statement, Lyonpo claimed that his car engine malfunctioned when it was on the way to Mongar. There was no proof to indicate the accident actually happened.”

It was then the former executive director (ED) of RICBL, Sonam Dorji, offered his help to claim insurance for the repair.  Knowing that Lyonpo was not eligible for the insurance claim, the two then decided to make a false claim.

Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen was convicted for violating section 311 of the Penal Code of Bhutan, which states that a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of fraudulent obtaining of insurance if the defendant presents a false statement as part of an application for commercial or personal insurance or as part of a claim for payment on a commercial or personal insurance policy.

The offence is graded a petty misdemeanour and the defendant can pay thrimthue in lieu of the prison term.

He was also asked to refund the full amount to the insurance company through the Office of Attorney General (OAG).

It was learnt that High Court’s Chief Justice Duba Dukpa recused himself from the case.

Sources said he also did not sign the judgment when he was a justice for bench three.

Chief Justice Duba Dukpa told Kuensel that he decided to recuse in order to issue an order to expedite the case. “Also the case has to be decided by a majority as per the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code 2001 in case of dissenting opinions amongst the sitting Justices,” he said. “It was also to avoid a tie if there are 8 Justices sitting on the case.”