Parties express confusion as defamation case nears end

Legal: Parties in the defamation case involving Sonam Phuntsho, Namgay Zam, a freelance journalist, and Dr Shacha Wangmo were left more confused as the case nears the closing arguments hearing on December 12.

The parties alleged each other of submitting irrelevant evidence, trying to divert the court’s attention, and wasting the court’s time through needless delays.

While both the parties earlier had asked the court to schedule a second evidence submission, except for rebutting each other’s arguments, no additional evidence was provided.

Sonam Phuntsho, during the second evidence submission yesterday, said that while the case was about the 25-point allegations in Dr Shacha Wangmo’s letter that Namgay Zangmo had shared, he alleged that the other party submitted evidence irrelevant to the case.

Denying all the allegations against him, the plaintiff said that Namgay Zam had to produce the girl whom she alleged he sexually assaulted. He added that the dues people owe him were settled through court verdicts and therefore are legal.

Dr Shacha Wangmo had written about the case with the plaintiff and about how he had allegedly manipulated documents and statements in court to take away her family’s building in Changzamtog, Thimphu.

Like in the earlier hearings, Thimphu dzongkhag chief judge Kinlay Namgyal had to occasionally intervene to keep the arguments relevant. He reminded the parties that they should focus on the defamation case. Still both parties drew most of their evidence from the property dispute case that Dr Shacha Wangmo’s family and Sonam Phuntsho fought. The Supreme Court passed its decision around the same time the defamation case was registered.

Dr Shacha Wangmo said that in order not to leave any loopholes that could decide the outcome of the case, she landed up responding to all allegations irrespective of their relevance to the case.

“I’d to refer to the case as the story I wrote was based on what happened during its trial,” she said.

Sonam Phuntsho claimed Nu 2.59 million as compensation if he wins the case. He said that the post has done him irreparable damage as many people across the world including those at home had seen the post. He had undergone mental shock, he claimed earlier.

Yesterday, the defendants picked up on the issue after he submitted a medical prescription, which did not specify that he had mental problems or stress.

Namgay Zam said that he had not returned to the psychiatrists for a review as advised and exercises regularly at a local health club.

Sonam Phuntsho admitted that one of the women he took to the USA, Phuntsho Dema was his legally wedded wife with a marriage certificate. He denied any wrong doing despite the allegations of fraud.

Contesting allegations that the Chief Justice, who is his son-in-law, is aware of what he does. He said neither is the chief justice nor his wife aware of his activities.

He questioned the character of Namgay Zam alleging her of extra-marital affairs, which he said had led to her divorce. He questioned the credibility of some of her reports, alleging they were wrong.

He alleged that she had to resigned from her former job in Bhutan Broadcasting Service. He also alleged that her parents left the country.

Namgay Zam said that the plaintiff harassed one of victims, a guarantor, who spoke to her after the evidence hearing on November 18 by threatening the victim with an arrest warrant despite the borrower and Sonam Phuntsho having an agreement that the former would pay him at a later date.

The defendants maintained that they have not defamed him.

“Ap Sonam Phuntsho had no reputation whatsoever prior to the sharing of the Facebook post,” Namgay Zam submitted.

Attendance in the courtroom has reduced over the successive hearings of the case.

Tshering Palden

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