The price of appeal

The judiciary had been busy in the last many days.  There were orders issued, interpretations made and a call for uniformity in application of laws.  These are welcome moves in the interest of dispensing fair trials and judgments, besides bolstering trust in the judiciary.

Courts could see complicated cases with the change in time and technology, not to mention sophisticated crimes.  As an old local saying has it, it is better to clear with your hand, what your foot stumbles on (kam thob lab-gi sae).

We will see a new trend soon, going by what the High Court had decided on the Lhakhang Karpo appeal case.  The court has put the Office of the Attorney General and the investigator Anti Corruption Commission, which is pressing for the case to be appealed, in a tight spot.  They were asked to sign undertakings on who should bear the responsibility, if the two defendants are either convicted or acquitted.

In other words, there is a condition set, if not a threat, to bear the repercussions of their actions.  We can surmise that both the constitutional agencies were taken aback by the order.  This has never happened before.

There will be repercussions because of the order, which is likely to become a precedent.  Every time, the ACC wants to prosecute, because it is not happy with the OAG, both offices will be asked to take responsibility.  However, from a broader prospective, it is a good trend.

Litigants will be saved from the hassle of going to court after a lower court’s verdict.  The ACC will be made to think twice before wanting to take over a case from the OAG, and the government’s prosecutor will be hard pressed to leave no room for appeal.  In other words, a case would be thoroughly looked into in the trial court.

The question however is, if litigants would also be asked to sign similar undertakings if they decide to appeal.  In our legal system, litigants have the right to appeal to higher courts, even till the Supreme Court, to ensure fair justice.

But this system is often misused.  While some appeal because they feel aggrieved, some do so to buy time, especially in monetary cases.  There are measures like paying bah to deter people from appealing, just for the sake of it.  But these are not enough.  The same rule should apply to them.  Courts are overwhelmed with rising number of cases.

There are concerns that the High Court’s undertaking order could discourage litigants, including the OAG, from appeal.  But this will filter cases reaching higher courts.  Only those who feel that there is a genuine case will appeal.

In the present case, it is only wise that the ACC should be allowed to take over the case.  They believe there are reasons, which the OAG doesn’t.  The OAG has already declared a conflict of interest and believe there are no legal grounds to appeal.  OAG fighting the case in the High Court on the suggestion of ACC is not right.  We can see them eating humble pie.

ACC believes there is a case. It will take the responsibility.

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