Judiciary: In a major development to the ongoing defamation case between an independent journalist and a businessman, the journalist in a letter written to the Prime Minister and all members of Parliament, has accused the Chief Justice of prima facie and is calling for an enquiry.

Prima facie is used to describe the apparent nature of a case upon initial observation.

In the letter, independent journalist Namgay Zam accuses the Chief Justice of expressing his legal opinion on the defamation case at a gathering of judges where the judge presiding over the case was also present.

“I am accusing the Chief Justice of Bhutan for prima facie violating his duty that is enshrined in the Constitution,” she wrote.

She cites three such alleged incidents involving the Chief Justice and has asked the Prime Minister and MPs to look into the matter.

Having received the letter, Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay, in a meeting with members of the press yesterday, said the laws provide clear separation of powers between the executive, legislative and the judiciary, and that there are checks and balances in place.

For instance, laws are clear on how holders of Constitutional bodies are appointed, nominated and how their conduct is examined.

He said it is up to the judiciary on how the judiciary conducts its affairs.

Although there is a provision to impeach heads of Constitutional bodies in the Constitution, he said Namgay Zam’s letter doesn’t seek impeachment. “It’s asking to conduct an investigation,” he said.

Lyonchoen said that he has sought the opinion of a legal team to establish whether the allegations merit attention of the executive arm of the government, and if it does, on what provision of law can the executive direct for an investigation. “We will go by the law,” he said adding that he was making a neutral statement.

“We have to go into the law and look at what checks and balances are available to address one citizen’s concerns.”

As for  Parliament, he said it is up to the MPs and the Speaker.

Article 32 of the Constitution devolves the power to Parliament to remove the holders of constitutional offices by way of impeachment with the concurrence of not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of Parliament.

The Chief Justice could not be reached for comment last night.

Tshering Dorji