The OAG to prosecute all cases

Tashi Dema 

The National Assembly decided not to delink the fire and prison service divisions, or the Youth Development and Rehabilitation Centre from the police yesterday.

The Social and Cultural Committee proposed to delink the services for proper and efficient management, to provide specialised service, and to resolve shortages of human resources in the police force.

NA members said that delinking the services from the police might incur additional costs, and suggested that it would be better to provide adequate human and financial resources to the police.

It was also decided that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) will prosecute all cases, irrespective of the grading of the offence.

Until now, the police prosecuted cases below misdemeanours, while the OAG prosecuted other cases.

The Social and Cultural Committee was given a day to look again into the provisions of the Royal Bhutan Police (Amendment) Bill 2021 that prescribed case prosecution and decision making.

The committee proposed to the house that the OAG should prosecute all cases according to the Constitution and the OAG Act.

Committee members said that since the police arrest criminals and also investigate the cases, there would be a conflict of interest if they prosecute the case.

They also reasoned that letting police prosecute cases would also affect their other main duties.

According to the committee members, they consulted many relevant agencies, including Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), who told the members that the police do not have the needed level of prosecution expertise.

They also said that when they consulted the OAG, they were told that there is a human resources shortage, and the committee decided to include in the Act that the government should provide adequate human resources.

It was also decided that the police should be provided with adequate modern facilities and scientific aids for investigation like body cameras, CCTV, and audio visual equipment during interrogation.

The committee chairperson, Wamrong MP Karma Thinley, reasoned that the equipment is necessary to establish a fair and efficient inquiry and investigation system.

Dewathang-Gomdar MP Ugyen Dorji said equipment like CCTV is necessary, as people accuse police of manhandling them during interrogations. “Although scientific equipment is mentioned in the existing Act, it has not been used until now.”

The committee proposed a new provision that witnesses to a crime shall not be interrogated in the presence of the suspect.

Some MPs said the witness should be given a choice, and that there would be cases where witnesses and the accused should be interrogated together.

Athang-Thedtso MP Kinley Wangchuk raised the importance of witness protection.

He said it is important to protect witnesses in criminal offences. “People committing criminal offences might attack the witness.”

However, the proposal did not receive support from the members.

Meanwhile, members highlighted the importance of reformative programmes for convicts, and separate detention rooms for women and juveniles.