Phuentsholing drungkhag court, after altering the child molestation charges to sexual harassment, sentenced a businessman to 10 months in prison on June 5.

Office of the Attorney  General (OAG) charged the man, Ashok Subba, who owns a restaurant, for child molestation alleging that on November 8 last year, he molested a 13-year-old student and touched her inappropriately around 6:30am when the minor was on her way to school.

It was stated that he kissed the child and gave her Nu 20.

The defendant was accused of again molesting the girl on November 9 and gave her Nu 50.

There was also a medical report that stated there was a mark of a kiss on the girl’s cheek.

Ashok Subba, in his rebuttal, submitted before the court that he only touched her, lifted her as a child affectionately and kissed her. “Maybe I touched her inappropriately by accident but not intentionally.”

He said that many school children come to his restaurant and that he gives them money.

Ashok Subba requested the court to acquit him.

The court ruled that since the defendant did not accept molesting the child and also because molestation is interpreted as touching the private parts, showing the private parts, showing indecent and sexually arousing movies, rape, and aiding and abetting in sexual intercourse, the court altered the charges to sexual harassment.

While the court did not cite where the child molestation interpretation was derived from, the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004’s section 203 states, “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of child molestation, if the defendant molests a child.”

The offence of child molestation is graded a fourth-degree felony.

The court convicted Ashok Subba for violating section 205 of the Penal Code, which states, “A defendant shall be guilty of sexual harassment if the defendant makes unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal abuse of sexual nature.”

The crime is graded a petty misdemeanour.

The court also ruled that although Ashok Subba is liable for compensation, he would not have to pay compensation since the victim did not suffer from any grave injury.

Ashok Subba was arrested on November 9 and he was granted bail on November 17.

The judgement stated that he could pay thrimthue in lieu of his remaining prison term.

Meanwhile, this is not the first case where a child molestation charge was altered by the court.

Records shared by the OAG stated that between 2014 and 2018, seven child molestation cases were altered to other offences of which two were altered in 2014, three in 2015 and two in 2016.

Courts also acquitted three child molestation cases during the same period, while judgment for one child molestation case is deferred.

There are also about 11 child molestation cases pending before the courts.

Tashi Dema