The Supreme Court dismissed former Mr Bhutan Sangay Tsheltrim’s appeal after the lower courts convicted him in a defamation and harassment case.
According to the documents submitted to the court, the issue first surfaced in 2017 following the results of the Ninth World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
During the competition, four Bhutanese athletes participated: Thinley Dorji, Damcho Zam, Sangay Tsheltrim, and Tandin Wangchen. All made it into the top five positions in their respective categories. Athletes won a Gold and two Bronze medals.
Sangay Tsheltrim stood fourth in the Men’s Athletic Physique up to 175cm category. He subsequently made a Facebook live streaming video, alleging that politics within the Bhutan Bodybuilding and Weightlifting Federation (BBWF) turned over his performance in the championship.
In 2019, Thimphu dzongkhag court’s Criminal Bench II sentenced Sangay Tsheltrim to a three-month prison term for defamation and harassment related to his remarks.
The September 6, 2019 judgment stated that although the defendant was liable for two criminal counts, he was given concurrent sentencing, because he had committed the crimes simultaneously, and because he did not yet have a criminal record at the time.
The judgment stated that the defendant had alleged the BBWF and a woman in Thimphu of corruption and collusion, and had made personal defamatory remarks against the woman on a Facebook live streaming video on October 10, 2017.
The judgment stated that although the defendant is liable to pay compensation to the victim, the victim has declined personal compensation.
The defendant appealed to the High Court (HC), stating that the Facebook live video was made to share his grievances about the competition, and has not defamed and harassed the victim.
However, the HC Bench III and HC’s larger Bench upheld the dzongkhag court’s judgment, and he was still guilty according to a considered judgment.
The HC’s bench III judgment says that as a direct result of the live stream on Facebook by the defendant, many viewers have made negative and harassing remarks to the victim.