Hearing begins on taxi driver murder case

Court: At the first hearing of the April 21 murder of a taxi driver in Thimphu, prime accused Tandin Gyeltshen denied the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) charges that the murder was intentional.

The hearing was held yesterday.

Tandin Gyeltshen requested district court’s bench IV to reduce his sentence on the grounds that he was intoxicated and mentally unsound at the time of committing the crime as he had a misunderstanding with his wife and the news of his mother’s death further stressed him. He said that he remembers stabbing the taxi driver twice denying OAG’s charges that the driver was stabbed 10 times.

OAG has charged Tandin Gyeltshen for a first-degree felony crime, which could lead to life imprisonment.

The Penal Code of Bhutan’s section 138 states that a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of murder, if the dependant commits a homicide knowingly and deliberately with premeditated malice or while in the commission or attempted commission of another felony.

The driver, 50, was killed on April 21 this year and his body was found near a stream above the zero point in Babesa.

Another accomplice, Karma Dorji is charged for accompanying Tandin Gyeltshen despite being aware of Tandin Gyeltshen’s intention to murder the driver besides helping him dispose off the body.

The OAG prosecutor said that as per law, a defendant is an accomplice of another person in the commission of an offence, if the defendant purposely engages in a conduct that helps a person to commit a crime. Therefore, as an accomplice, Karma Dorji is liable for a prison term of a minimum of nine years and a maximum of 15 years.

However, Karma Dorji also refused the charges OAG framed against him stating that he accompanied Tandin Gyeltshen and did what he was told to do, as he feared that Tandin Gyeltshen would also kill him.

Eyewitness to the crime, Kinley Gyeltshen, agreed OAG’s charges that he failed to report the crime to police.

The OAG prosecutor stated that Kinley Gyeltshen’s sentence would depend on the gravity of the crime that the court must decide. Kinley Gyeltshen has been released on bail currently.

The OAG will present its rebuttal on July 27.

As per the police investigation report, Tandin Gyeltshen and Karma Dorji had boarded the deceased’s taxi from Phuentsholing to Thimphu to attend Tandin Gyeltshen’s mother’s funeral on April 20. The duo had sneaked in controlled substances that were handed over to the taxi driver in case the men were frisked at the check-posts.

On the way, the taxi driver threatened the men of reporting to police and demanded Nu 3,000 more on reaching Thimphu. The fare was fixed at Nu 2,000 from Phuentsholing. Despite repeated requests by Tandin Gyeltshen and Karma Dorji, the driver refused to hand over the drugs, as they failed to pay the demanded taxi fare.

Following an argument between Tandin Gyeltshen and the driver, Tandin Gyeltshen punched and then stabbed the driver. Tandin Gyeltshen drove the taxi towards Royal Thimphu College and the two dumped the body on the roadside.

The incident occured  around 3am on April 21. A passerby who spotted the body with multiple stab wounds around 7am on the same day reported to police.

Dechen Tshomo

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