After serving in the judiciary for 17 years, former judge Shera Lhendup resigned in 2009 and started a private law firm. On May 22, he was appointed as the new Attorney General.
He shares his views on the appointment and responsibility with Kuensel’s Sonam Pelden. Excerpts
How did you take the announcement of your appointment?
It’s not so much of a surprise because there have been rumours for a long time. Yet being entrusted, I am most honoured and what has come as a bit of surprise to me was that I thought preference would go to people, who are within the system.
What do you plan to do with your private law firm now?
I’d transfer the entire firm to the partners here, who will continue giving legal services. I’ll give up because I must not have monetary interests in this firm anymore.
It’s inappropriate for the attorney general of the country to hold an office of profit, although there is no such requirement. We haven’t encountered such a situation, where someone from a private firm is appointed to an official position. It’s happening for the first time and perhaps it’s good.
The greatest challenge for me is the people I’ve been defending. One could say that I have a conflict of interest. But I’m leaving everything in the hands of people who’ve been appearing in actuality before the court. I’ve just been managing the firm, that’s it. So, I’ll go there and continue, but it will be my test of integrity, at least in my conscience, I must not suffer any conflict.
What, according to you, is the OAG’s most important responsibility today?
I don’t think the OAG should prosecute every case that is forwarded unless it’s convinced that agencies have been investigated fairly, and there is substantive evidence enough to prove the charges against an individual.
Most importantly, investigating agencies, like the ACC and police, must practise the rule of law more than anyone.
When it comes to prosecution by the OAG, it’s easy. But, in the end, when it’s produced before the court, it turns out that these evidences were coerced.
We must stop relying on strategic ways of acquiring admissions from the individuals being investigated, or deceptively manipulating them into admitting something they have not done. OAG shouldn’t be prosecuting based on evidences without evaluating the legitimacy of the evidence. This I feel is one of the challenges that needs to be corrected in the system.
Your reaction to comments on social media tagging you as PDP.
Has there been?
I’ve been tagged with DPT when they were the government. I’m now tagged with PDP because they’re the government. OAG is, by nature, the legal pulse of the ongoing government. To see that the state does not make illegal decision. That’s it and that will continue. With the recent amendment, it’s been even made absolutely apolitical. I’ll continue serving when the next party forms the government, which indicates sufficiently to the people and the political interests that OAG is absolutely apolitical. And they cannot oust me. I’m answerable to the King as well. It has been made difficult, yet in that difficulty, one has been made more responsible as a lawyer also.
This appointment is not to free PDP or DPT people or anybody. This appointment is to strengthen the justice system. We all come and go, but the system established must be good. It shouldn’t be individual or personality based.
OAG has been given the responsibility to present with the best manner possible in the interest of the state.
Yet, one thing that we’ll make very clear is that the OAG shall not seek conviction. Our pursuit will be for justice. You cannot seek conviction by all means, but you must not fail in seeking justice. Setting free might be more just than being convicted. But it’s our duty to make the best of presentations on behalf of the state, and it’s for the court to decide. Justice must prevail in the end. We must protect the rights of the individual. It’s the responsibility of the state, and the OAG is an integral part of the state.
When you served in the judiciary, you were known as a liberal judge. Why?
Liberal judge means interpreting laws to suit a changing circumstance. It means looking at things a bit out of the box. Don’t be bound just by law blindly because, at the end, fairness must be there. I think that’s what they meant when they branded me as a liberal judge. It means you’re willing to actually go beyond the scope of law and reason out that you cannot hold that law under such circumstances, and apply it alike everywhere, because some people are actually bound to follow certain orders.
I feel most judges should be liberal, so that social justice is actually done. Just good law doesn’t mean its enforcement is also good.