Following a review, the Supreme Court (SC) on August 25 partially altered its earlier judgment on the Tandin Bidha vs Sonam Phuntsho money lending dispute.
The court ordered police to produce Tandin Bidha’s daughter Sonam Wangmo, the main person involved with Sonam Phuntsho and who is at large, before the court at the earliest.
Sonam Wangmo is alleged to have borrowed Nu 18 million from Sonam Phuntsho mortgaging her family’s five-storey building in Changzamtog, Thimphu.
All this time, including the two lower courts, Tandin Bidha had contested that her signature on the agreements and her daughter’s signature on the four money receipts were forged and asked for a forensic test.
The court issued a deferred judgment on this issue until police arrests Sonam Wangmo and reports the forensic results. This is a change from the court’s two earlier judgments.
“The truth can only be revealed when police produces Sonam Wangmo in court,” the judgment stated.
However, the Supreme Court upheld that Sonam Phuntsho should still get Nu 18M from Sonam Wangmo, as her lawyer Younten Jamtsho had agreed that it was her signature in the four documents she signed with Sonam Phuntsho.
In an open letter to the Chief Justice of SC on social media, Tandin Bidha stated, “The validity of documents is to be investigated later, but the money is to be paid first. If the authenticity of agreement is questionable, how can the court rule that Sonam Wangmo has to pay that amount to Sonam Phuntsho.”
Another change in the judgment is that the Bhutan National Bank will now auction the building instead of Department of National Properties and get to keep its share first from the sale.
The family had availed loan from the bank to construct building in Changzamtog.
The court also ordered police to arrest Sonam Wangmo’s husband in another case of alleged forgery where the duo allegedly forged documents to avail loan from Tashi Bank.
Her husband, Chuki Gyeltshen who was the guarantor for Sonam Wangmo when she availed loan from Tashi Bank is accused of aiding and abetting the crime.
The court also ordered foreign ministry to cancel all their travel documents.
The Court ruled that Bhutan National Bank would not get late fees on their loans since they did not file a case when the monthly installments were not paid on time. It also stated that without determining which part of building belongs to Sonam Wangmo, BNB issued loans four times.
The Chief Justice earlier recused from the case as the plaintiff was his father in law.
In her open letter, Tandin Bidha, asked, that if criminal proceedings are to begin after her daughter were found, then does it mean that all decisions would be revoked? “What if a different story comes out; why do I feel like my family is getting the raw end of the deal that my daughter is already being treated like a criminal without having been given the benefit of the doubt?”