… after HC exonerated 10 staff of Taktse College of Language and Culture Studies  in sexual harassment case

Rinzin Wangchuk 

The authorities of the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) and Taktse College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS) in Trongsa are seeking legal counsel from experts on whether there is ground for appeal to the Supreme Court in connection with a sexual harassment case.

The High Court on July 29 affirmed the Trongsa dzongkhag court’s ruling and exonerated 10 employees of CLCS who were charged with sexually harassing female students. The court ordered both RUB and CLCS to pay them their monthly salary in arrears from the day they were compulsorily retired on May 10, 2019, until the day HC passed the judgment.

“We are not only seeking legal advice but also reviewing how the appellate court overlooked the charges against 10 plaintiffs,” one RUB member said. “We feel that there is a strong ground to appeal against HC’s ruling.”

The HC stated that they were terminated without following due process and breached the Human Resource Rules and Regulation 2017 of the RUB. HC also ordered the university to reinstate them.

The Trongsa court’s ruling on December 31, 2021, stated that the college did not issue a copy of the charge nor gave an opportunity to answer the charges but retired the lecturers compulsorily with the decision of the college management committee when the human resource committee should decide the retirement. It also stated there was no appellate body instituted.

HC summoned 13 members of the CLCS management committee for cross-examination during which they submitted that they were not aware of charges against the staff and how the decision was taken. In their statement to the court they submitted, “During the last meeting between the RUB and the staff and faculty (all), the Vice Chancellor expressed his concern regarding the issue. None of the members of the college was aware of the implicated faculty and staff. The CMC’s decision was made based on the survey and RUB team’s report on the issue”.

One of the CMC members also stated that he was not involved in pool development as well as administering the survey. Another member said that during the survey and investigation she wasn’t involved.

“With all these statements, it was evident that the staff were compulsorily retired based on a personal grudge by abusing power,” the HC stated in its judgment with a warning. “Rule of law is not an exception for RUB and Taktse College.”

Although both the RUB and college management committee were liable to pay the lawyer’s fees of the 10 plaintiffs to prevent such cases in future, HC decided to warn and order the college to follow the RUB’s Human Resource Manual 2017 henceforth to solve any disputes in the college.

Nine lecturers and one supporting staff filed a civil suit against the management committee of CLCS and RUB after they were compulsorily retired. The police investigated the sexual harassment allegations made by 19 girls and dropped all charges against them.

Aggrieved by the lower court’s ruling to reinstate staff and pay their salaries in arrears, RUB and Taktse college appealed to the HC in early January this year.

Meanwhile, the HC also upheld the lower court’s ruling that sentenced three other lecturers between three months and nine months in prison for sexual harassment.

One lecturer was sentenced to nine months in prison for kissing and asking a student to sleep and marry him. Two other lecturers were sentenced to three months each in prison for kissing a student and touching a girl improperly respectively. They can, however, pay in lieu of the prison term.