Two lay monks from Jomotsangkha, Pema Thritshog and Choeten Tshering, appealed to the High Court on March 1 this year after the Samdrupjongkhar dzongkhag court allowed one of the litigants in a sorcery case to withdraw the case.
The appeal was also made because the dzongkhag court deferred the case after the litigants could not provide evidence to prove that the accused, Phub Dorji, who is a khenpo, did sorcery and stuffed papers with names of a lam, Ugyen Wangdi of Jampani goenpa and a tsampa, Nawang Sherab’s inside yak horns with incantations.
The verdict was rendered last month.
The case dates back to an incident in 2014 when a group of people, Choden, Tashi Tshering, Sonam Jatsho and a shaman (Terdag) Namgyal, claimed to have found six yak horns from a remote village in Lauri while consulting the Terdag when their family members fell ill.
According to the judgment, when Choden’s husband, Tashi Tshering’s father and another villager, Rinchen Dawa’s brother, fell ill, they consulted the Terdag, who directed them to find an heirloom from a marshy area in the village.
The villagers claimed that they found two yak horns and Choden said that there are four yak horns in her house, which she bought from Khenpo Phub Dorji in 2011 when she and her husband went to Thimphu for his medical check-up.
She claimed that the Khenpo had said that the yak horns could ward off misfortunes.
The villagers also claimed that when they broke a yak horn, they found the lam’s and tsampa’s name inside the horns with incantations. They then informed the village tshogpa and Rinchen Dawa took pictures of it on his cell phone.
When words spread about it in the locality, Pema Thritshog and Choeten Tshering lodged a complaint with Jomotsangkha police.
Jomotsangkha police charged Khenpo Phub Dorji for harassment, violating section 462 of the Penal Code, which states, “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of harassment if the defendant engages in a course of conduct that places a person in reasonable fear of emotional or mental distress.”
The police also charged Choden, Terdag Namgyal, Tashi Tshering and Sonam Jatso for failing to report a crime, a violation of section 430 of the Penal Code.
Choden, Terdag Namgyal and Tashi Tshering were charged with hindering prosecution, a violation of Penal Code’s section 418.
The Jomotsangkha drunkhag court deferred the case against Khenpo Phub Dorji stating that the charges were not proven beyond reasonable doubt.
According to the judgement, the Khenpo denied the charges and asked the court to counter charge the villagers for defamation.
The drungkhag court also deferred the failure to report crime charges against Choden, Tashi Tshering, Sonam Jatsho and Terdag Namgyal.
The court, however, convicted Choden, Tashi Tshering and Terdag Namgyal for hindering prosecution but stated that Choden’s detention in police custody for about 12 nights and Tashi Tshering for about 11 nights should serve as their penalty. It also stated that Terdag Namgyal was in custody in Pemagatshel.
The litigants then appealed to Samdrupjongkhar court.
The dzongkhag court judgment stated that Pema Thritshog and Choeten Tshering do not have the authority to represent the monastery to fight the case since they were not appointed as representatives.
The judgement stated that although they claimed to have photographic evidence on Rinchen Dawa’s cell phone, it could not be produced before the court as evidence since the cell phone was damaged and a mobile repair shop in Samdrupjongkhar could not repair the mobile.
Tashi Dema and Tshering Palden