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Legal: Two gup candidates who lost the local government elections on September 27 lost their dispute cases at the High Court yesterday.

High Court verdicts stated that the plaintiffs should have raised their concerns immediately when the alleged wrongdoing happened. The complaints were in conflict with the notification of the Supreme Court Chief Justice on July 2011.

The Supreme Court Chief Justice issued a notification on July 2011 stating that  complaints filed to the courts after the declaration of the election results should be examined to ascertain if they are about the events that occurred during the campaign period.

“If the disputed events occurred during the election, the courts should dismiss the complaints,” the notification states.

Moreover, according to the relevant regulations disputes should have been forwarded to the dispute settlement bodies.

A gup candidate for Khamae gewog, Gasa and the former gup, Karma Tshering filed an election dispute case against the Election Commission at the Gasa dzongkhag court alleging that Kuenley Penjore was reflected on a party membership list when he submitted his nomination for gup.

The court issued a verdict to revoke the election of Khamae gewog gup Kuenley Penjore as he was a member of Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party when he filed his nomination for the LG elections.

Kuenley Penjore was reflected as a member of Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party at the time of nomination for the LG elections.  A party worker initially registered Kuenley Penjore with the party in May 2013 as a candidate but he was not nominated as he did not have a university degree.

The party admitted the error on its part for not deleting his name from the membership list and reported to the Election Commission that Kuenley Penjore had not paid the party membership fees or attended any of the trainings or meetings it conducted. The commission on receiving the clarification from the party accepted Kuenley Penjore’s nomination to contest the elections.

The High Court Justices said that similar disputes emerged after the first LG Elections in 2011 and His Majesty The King granted a Kasho allowing aspirant candidates who were disqualified, to participate in the elections, because the fault was of the political parties.

The High Court verdict states that the decision of the commission is in line with the Constitution and electoral laws.

In the other election dispute case, a gup candidate of Barshong gewog in Tsirang alleged that his opponent who won the election, of corruption and appealed to the High Court.

Jit Bahadur Tamang alleged that Santa Lal Powdyel campaigned during the 48-hour no campaign period, bribed and bought drinks for voters breaching election laws.

Santa Lal Powdyel said that the complaint was filed as his opponent lost the election. The plaintiff failed to prove the allegations beyond reasonable doubt, the verdict stated.

“Having seen the issues one should report it to the authorities,” Justice Lungten Drubgyur said. “Normally, people think they’ll raise the issue only if one doesn’t win the elections, which poses great risk to democracy.”

The High Court is the final authority on election disputes related to local government.

Section 511 of The Election Act states, “An appeal may, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, lie from every order made by a Trial Court to the High Court of Bhutan, in case the election petition is related to an election to a Local Government.”

Tshering Palden

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