Thinley Namgay  

The Bhutan National Legal Institute’s (BNLI) Legal Aid Centre (LAC) witnessed a significant increase in cases, receiving 55 cases last year, marking a 34-case rise compared to its inception year in 2022.

These cases spanned across 11 dzongkhags, a notable expansion from the four dzongkhags—Thimphu, Paro, Trongsa, and Samdrupjongkhar—represented in 2022. The LAC extended legal aid services to the people of Wangdue, Punakha, Tsirang, Gasa, Mongar, Dagana, and Chukha in the past year.

Established in October 2022, the LAC plays a crucial role in providing legal aid to individuals navigating various legal complexities and facing significant challenges. It focuses on educating people about their rights and emphasises the importance of legal representation, irrespective of their backgrounds.

Comparing the nature of cases over the last two years, the breakdown for 2023 revealed 20 criminal cases and 35 civil cases, whereas 2022 saw five criminal cases and 16 civil cases. The spectrum of criminal cases included deceptive practices, larceny, child molestation, and risking the protection of endangered species, among others. Civil cases encompassed monetary and institutional loan disputes, divorce proceedings, land inheritance disputes, and commercial transaction disputes.

Among the 11 cases that required legal representation, six were handled pro bono by lawyers, while the remaining five cases involved a fee-based arrangement.

The report from BNLI highlighted that LAC’s lawyers pursued and resolved all cases, leading to reduced court sentences and successful acquittals in some instances.