Paro dzongkhag court, after altering the murder charge against a 25-year-old man into voluntary manslaughter, sentenced him to 13 years in prison on July 14.

The accused, Sonam Dorji, from Gakiling in Haa, was also asked to pay a compensation of Nu 492,875 to the deceased’s family as compensation.

The incident occurred on December 21 last year when Sonam Dorji went to the deceased Chimi Dorji’s place to discuss accusations Chimi Dorji made against him on stealing Nu 9,000 and a cell phone.

The defendant, on reaching the deceased’s house, took an iron rod (an electrical pin insulator) from the store and hit him nine times on the head.

Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged Sonam Dorji for violating section 139 of the Penal Code of Bhutan, 2004, which states, “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of murder if he or she commits a homicide knowingly and deliberately with premeditated malice.” The offence is graded a first-degree felony.

OAG argued that the problem ensued between the defendant and the deceased since December 19, when the deceased accused the defendant of stealing Nu 9,000. The two had been involved in a brawl that day.

OAG also argued that on December 20, the deceased again accused the defendant of stealing his cell phone. “On December 21, the defendant went to the deceased’s home and murdered him intentionally.”

Sonam Dorji rebutted that although there were differences between him and the deceased, the deceased battered him twice and that he was under the influence of alcohol when the incident happened.

He requested the court to lower his sentence to the minimum, reasoning that he is a poor farmer’s son.

The court stated that although Sonam Dorji committed the crime, it is evident that it was not planned or without premeditated malice since the murder weapon is also from the deceased’s house.

The court also stated it is evident that it was an act of violence of sudden passion.

It stated that since it was not proven that it was a planned murder, the court, in accordance with section 187.3 changed the charge to meet the ends of justice to voluntary manslaughter.

Voluntary manslaughter is graded as a second-degree felony, with a sentence ranging from nine years to 15 years. Sonam Dorji was arrested on December 23 last year.

Tashi Dema