Illicit SIM card sale fetches six-month sentence for three

Crime: Gelephu dungkhag court sentenced three men to six months in prison for selling Bhutanese SIM cards to people from across the border last year.

Thinley Dorji from Trongsa, Dilip Saru from Tsirang, and Laxman Karia from Sarpang were arrested on February 12, 2015.

According to the verdict, passed on May 6, the men were sentenced as per  section 22 of the penal code, which says the court may award sentence within the sentencing parameter enumerated in this penal code.  If the offence committed by the defendant is not stated in the code, the court shall specify its reason in awarding such sentences.

The verdict also says the defendants were ignorant of the law that they were not allowed to give their SIM cards to non-nationals across the border.

“Six months’ prison term were given to them because, as a citizen, they also have to respect the law of the land,” reads the verdict.  Further, it says that, if the state and the service provider had enforced the directives given by the court in 2013 when the first kidnapping took place, the cases of issuing SIM card by the Bhutanese people to the Indians would not have happened.

“If people are made to suffer with similar cases in future, the state shall be responsible,” says the verdict.

Thinley Dorji had purchased eight SIM cards in his name and those of his relatives and sold them to non-nationals in India.  The numbers issued in his name were found to have been used to contact the wives of two drivers, who were kidnapped on September 5 last year.

Dilip Saru had purchased six B-Mobile and three Tashi-Cell SIM cards, which were also sold to Indians.  These SIM cards were used to make extortion calls to Bhutanese businessmen.

Laxman Karia purchased nine B-Mobile and 12 Tashi-Cell SIM cards, all of which were sold to Indians.

Kidnappers have been using Bhutanese mobile numbers to contact relatives of the victims since the first kidnapping case in 2012.

The Chief of Police, Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel, said the two telecommunications companies have also been warned that, if their agents were found to be involved, both agents and company would be held accountable.

The accused can pay thrimthue in lieu of imprisonment.

By Yeshey Dema, Tsirang

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