Younten Tshedup 

Thimphu dzongkhag court’s criminal bench sentenced Khandu Wangmo to a concurrent prison term of five years after finding her guilty of three counts of sedition.

According to the judgement passed yesterday, she was sentenced to five years each for the three seditious letters she distributed in Thimphu to implicate her former husband, Yeshey Dorji, who was a drangpon, and his family members.

The 15 years sentencing was, however, reduced to a concurrent sentencing of five years and Khandu Wangmo will serve the sentencing after completing her nine years imprisonment for her involvement in the criminal conspiracy case.

The conspiracy case, which the same criminal bench passed judgment last month, is in the High Court after three defendants appealed.

Khandu Wangmo was found guilty of distributing three seditious letters, which she wrote to implicate Drangpon Yeshey Dorji and family so that she need not pay the Nu 8 million loan she took mortgaging his properties.

The content of the seditious letters was mostly about people of Kheng disgruntled against the Tsa-Wa-Sum.

According to the judgment, Khandu Wangmo had made an official of Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) place the seditious letter under the table of Drangpon Yeshey Dorji’s sister who works there, police constables to place the letter in Drangpon Yeshey Dorji’s house in Changjiji, to youth in town and also in a car belonging to Yeshey Dorji’s former brother-in-law in Babesa.

It stated that Khandu Wangmo also sought the help of an ophthalmologist to distribute the letters.

Khandu Wangmo had promised job opportunities, scholarships abroad, and military training in India to those who had helped her distribute the seditious letters.

Khandu Wangmo was convicted as per section 331 (e) of the Penal Code of Bhutan, which states that a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of sedition if the defendant issues a scurrilous and malignant statement against His Majesty or the Royal Government with the intent to defame, disrupt, encourage contempt, or incite hatred of the people against Bhutan.”

The offence graded a third-degree felony.

During the court trial, Khandu Wangmo had claimed innocence and blamed all the individuals involved in distributing the seditious letter and framing her. However, the court ruled that she could not substantiate her claims and all the evidence showed she was responsible for writing the seditious letters and distributing it.

She also contended before the court that all the individuals involved in the case should be implicated for sedition but the court ruled that while some people did not know the content of the letter they were distributing, others who knew did it on the behest of Khandu Wangmo that it is for national interest and that they did not have seditious intent.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in a press release issued yesterday evening appealed to the High Court for a harsher punishment.

It stated that while the Thimphu dzongkhag court found her guilty on three counts of sedition charges and sentenced her to 15 years in prison, it only awarded five years imprisonment. “The OAG after careful consideration and analyses of the judgment opines that since the defendant has been proven beyond reasonable doubt on all the three separate counts, the sentencing should have been at least 15 to 27 years.”

The OAG stated that the wide discretion exercised by the trial court with the award of five years sentence, which could have been a maximum of 27 years ‘dishonoured the Tsawa-Sum and disrepute the efforts of the investigation and prosecuting agencies.’

It stated that the OAG as the central prosecution and litigation institution was concerned that the meagre sentencing of such heinous crimes, derogates the principle of deterrence and proportional sentencing to crimes committed against the state. “The OAG is concerned that such sentencing will establish a wrong precedent and pose a grave concern to our security, sovereignty and constitutional sacrosanctity of our established institutions.”

Edited by Tashi Dema