Thinley Namgay

Thimphu Dzongkhag Court’s chief judge conducted a miscellaneous hearing for the police’s defamation case against a private individual who is known as ‘Penjore Penjore’ on Facebook.

Police charged Penjore for defamation, which is a petty misdemeanour offence.

The Penal Code of Bhutan says a defendant convicted of a petty misdemeanour shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment, a minimum of which shall be one month and a maximum of which shall be less than one year.

The case has been assigned to the court’s Bench II.

On May 4, Penjore wrote on Facebook asking the Attorney General (AG) and Bhutan National Bank (BNB) officials to resign.

Penjore said in October 2020, BBS ran a story about a forgery case related to the recruitment of staff in BNB, which concerned him as a citizen.

“In exercise of my freedom of speech rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Bhutan, I have posted my views in the Bhutanese News and Forums under my name,” Penjore said.

Police arrested and detained him in May for 16 days before the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged him for sedition.

The OAG alleged that he had made a series of ‘scurrilous and malignant’ written statements on Facebook against the State, with the particular intent to defame, encourage contempt, and incite hatred against people occupying positions in public institutions, and to undermine the rule of law, the democratic principles, and reputation of the country.

The same court dismissed the OAG’s sedition case against Penjore on June 18 this year.

While the details of the charges filed by the police have not been shared with the media, it is understood that the accused is now being charged with defamation because of his posts on Facebook.

Penjore said: “I have requested an open trial from the chief drangpon during the hearing, where media personnel can also attend the hearing.  He said that I can submit the request to the Bench II judge in the next hearing.”

The media was not allowed in during the miscellaneous hearing yesterday. However, the Chief Judge of the dzongkhag court, Rinchen Penjor, said that based on the sensitivity of the case, the court will decide whether or not to allow the media to attend the hearings.

Kuensel called police officials but they could not comment.