Amid an elaborate show of cultural performances and display of traditional grandeur, Her Royal Highness (HRH) Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck consecrated the new High Court building at the Supreme Court Complex (Lhadrong) in Hejo, Thimphu on June 2.
The event marked a significant milestone in the history of Bhutan’s judiciary. It coincided with the coronation anniversary of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo and also marked the completion of 50 years of High Court’s service to the nation.
HRH said that the judiciary couldn’t be complacent during good times. “We have to prioritise better services to the people at all times,” HRH said adding that building on the trust, confidence and cooperation among the fraternity, the judiciary has to be mindful of its conduct, both physical and moral.
HRH launched a book “Lhoyi Ngyingjid”, History of the Judiciary, and awarded soelra to the author, Sonam Penjor, who is a Supreme Court bench clerk. HRH also awarded Tshepami statue to the former Chief Justice and Chenrize statutes to the representatives of Late Lyonpo Sangay Penjor and the first five justices of the High Court.
The new court has three large courtrooms, nine chambers for the justices and spacious rooms for the office staff.
The High Court was established at Tashichhodzong on November 3, 1967. It was later shifted and started functioning from where the present day agriculture minister’s office is in the vicinity of the Tashichhodzong. The former High Court building constructed at a cost of Nu 680,000 was inaugurated by the then home minister Tamji Jagar.
Initially, the High Court functioned from Tashichhodzong with Dasho Dodo, Dasho Tsang Tsang, Dasho Nidup Namgyal, Dasho Kelzang and Dasho Serdo as the first five justices.
To date, 40 justices including three Chief Justices and more than 100 staff have served at the High Court. Dasho Paljor Jigme Dorji was the first Chief Justice (1974-85), followed by late Lyonpo Sangay Penjor (1987 – 1989) and Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye (1991- 2009).
The first Chief Justice, Dasho Paljor Jigme Dorji, popularly known as Dasho Benji, said that he was appointed a judge along with 18 others and posted in Paro. He was appointed the acting Chief Justice in 1974.
“We don’t want justice to be seen but we want justice to be done,” he said. “The country’s dignity is reflected by the justice it delivers to its people and I think they do an excellent job.”
In commemoration of the Court’s 50 years of service to the nation, former Chief Justices, representatives of late Chief Justice Lyonpo Sangay Penjor and first five justices, former justices, judges and the bench clerks were presented with mementoes.
“Today the judiciary is not only housed in traditional elegant buildings, it is also equipped with modern amenities. The judiciary expresse its deep gratitude to His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo for his guidance and benevolent support in making our justice system vibrant and accessible,” a press release from the High Court stated.
The judiciary also thanked the Governments of India, Denmark, Austria, and Switzerland for their contribution and support in bringing significant structural development in the judiciary.
The High Court, prior to the adoption of Constitution on July 18, 2008, played its pivotal role not only in the dispensation of justice as the highest formal court of appeal but also spearheaded many legislative reforms in drafting major procedural and other substantive laws.