A judgment is a court’s determination of the rights and obligations of the parties while a verdict is a jury’s decision, Thimphu dzongkhag court’s judge for civil cases, Lobzang Rinzin Yargay, explained yesterday while citing the Bhutanese media’s use of terms like judgment and verdicts interchangeably.

A verdict, he said, includes a decree and order and. “So a court renders a judgment,” he said.  “In some countries, in both civil and criminal cases, the defendant has the right to choose between a jury and a court trial.”

In the jury trial, a panel of jurors listen and decides the fate of the defendant.

Drangpon Lobzang Rinzin Yargay also said that judgment is a legal decision when the court resolves the issue in a dispute the litigants bring before it. “The judgment of a court, therefore, ultimately marks the end of litigation between the competing parties.”

He said it is important for media to understand the role of courts in protecting the rights of the public to justice and security and develop strategies for effective reporting on the judgments and court system.

The drangpon said that laws are written in Dzongkha, which is the court’s language. “We are learning and promoting the language and culture in the process,” he said.

High Court Justice Lungten Dubgyur explained that the Constitution mandates courts to have Dzongkha as the court language but the court also protects the language litigants best understand.

He cited examples of how courts accept submissions in English for the benefit of litigants.

Drangpon Lobzang Rinzin Yargay said that non-Dzongkha scholars might find comprehending court documents and court Dzongkha challenging, as it will use Dzongkha in technical terms.

Justice Lungten Dubgyur explained that language evolves and courts play an important role to promote the national language.

High Court acting Chief Justice Sangay Khandu said if there is no specific law provisions, which state that Dzongkha is the court language, a Supreme Court order should suffice to consider Dzongkha as the court language until the law is amended. “It fills the lacuna.”

Meanwhile, drangpon Lobzang Rinzin Yargay said that law and media converge in collecting and disseminating information. “Information is power. Media and courts have the information,” the drangpon said. “Whoever has information is powerful, as we become experts in gathering, processing and disseminating information.”

He said that it is important to communicate and disseminate information properly. He explained that in earlier times, judgments were verbal but today it is in writing, should be reasoned, dated, sealed, signed and placed on record. “When we put on record, no one can alter it.”

He said that the main purpose of having written judgments is to inform the parties of the clear thinking of the judge and reasons for the decisions of the court as to why one party won the case and the other lost. “It should also state the ground as to why one party lost the case and the other won and demonstrate the application of the correct and relevant principles of law to the facts in issue, fairness and the correctness of the decision.”

He said that in earlier times, judgements were unwritten, there was wide discretion, customary laws and lack of records. “Then it evolved and now we have written documents and intensive petitions. Litigants use jabmi and lawyers and it is right based, based on specific provisions of parliamentary statutes and ask for right-based remedies.”

There are more than 250 laws now. In earlier times, it was all based on the Thrimzhung Chenmo. “Today there is law on specific subjects,” drangpon Lobzang Rinzin Yargay said.

He also said that besides having professional judges, judgments are reasoned and evidence based now. “The judgments are now self-speaking, explanatory and realistic.”

He said judicial analysis is made using a tool called FIRAC, which stands for facts, issues, rules, analysis and conclusion. “There is no secrecy. As much as the judgment is concerned, we work in a glasshouse.”

High Court Justice Lungten Dubgyur explained that FIRAC model tool helps to sequence writing when they write judgements. “For vertical check and balance, we have the appellate system.”

Tashi Dema