Judiciary: Namgay Zam, former BBS anchor, submitted to the Thimphu dzongkhag court’s Chief Judge Kinley Namgyal that the defamation case that Sonam Phuntsho filed against her and Dr Shacha Wangmo on August 12 be dismissed.

Namgay Zam said that the case could set precedent for many other defamation suits that could distract the judiciary from doing their work and also wasting their time and resources.

She said that the Supreme Court’s verdict, which was reviewed under His Majesty’s command, has not proven Sonam Phuntsho to be correct. Neither has it proven Dr Shacha and her mother Tandin Bidha wrong.

If further hearings are pursued, all the judicial proceedings will be seen as being unjust, would violate the Constitution and undermine freedom of expression, she said, adding that the Supreme Court has already issued a verdict on the case and the same case is being discussed again as defamation case.

She said that the case be dismissed as it could lead to social disharmony.

Namgay Zam said that she shared Dr Shacha Wangmo’s story in the public interest and also because it affected her.

Namgay Zam had posted a story written by Dr Shacha Wangmo about a court case against Sonam Phuntsho. She said that she did not express her opinion besides highlighting the fact that Dr Shacha Wangmo is a university topper who is still unemployed.

“If I had passed judgment on her story and called Sonam Phuntsho a crook, then I suppose I would have to accept the charge of defamation,” Namgay Zam said. “But I did not pass any judgment.”

Namgay Zam said that when Dr Shacha Wangmo shared her story supported by court documents as evidence, she thought that it would be in the interest of the public to discuss her case and for institutions concerned to further investigate.

“I am not the only one to have responded in this manner as proven by more than 5,000 Facebook users who shared her story,” she said. “Many other stories have been shared on Facebook and continue to be shared when one is deeply affected.”

Namgay Zam said that her Facebook page is not an account solely for the purpose of journalistic work. There have been many instances, she said, when she shared stories and images that had nothing to do with journalism, but were instead stories and images that were humorous, moving, upsetting, and even horrifying. “The same can be said of the sharing of Dr Shacha’s story.”

Article 7 of the Constitution of Bhutan states that a Bhutanese citizen has the right to freedom of speech, opinion and expression. The plaintiff accusing her and Dr Shacha of defamation is a direct attack on their fundamental rights, she said.

Namgay Zam requested the court to have the plaintiff prove that her post has damaged his reputation beyond repair.

Dr Shacha Wangmo said that other than the story that was submitted to the district, high and the Supreme Court, she did not share anything more that defamed Sonam Phuntsho.

Chief Judge Kinley Namgyal reminded the plaintiff and the defendants to focus on the defamation case and urged them not to mix the civil and criminal cases. The defamation case is a civil case.

The court will proceed with its due process and everyone will be given equal opportunities to rebut and present their witness and evidence before the court, said Chief Judge Kinley Namgyal. If the case is dismissed, the court will then be violating the fundamental rights of a person, he added.

Sonam Phuntsho will submit his rebuttal on October 5.

Dechen Tshomo