The incident at the Supreme Court yesterday, where defendants of the high profile land case in Trongsa and their children attacked Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) officials right in front of the courtroom and inside the court building, is one of the few unfortunate cases of violence within the court in recent memory.
The incident, however, raised many questions about security measures inside the court premise and how litigants managed to take a knife inside when security officials were supposed to frisk all visitors.
The Supreme Court, with grand structures and architectural design, has security officials at the entrance and also in front of the courtrooms to maintain peace and order during the court proceedings.
Courts are not the nicest or the safest place. It is where people accuse each other and come to seek justice. Each party wants the other to get punished. When two angry parties accuse each other or defend their case, things could get nasty. It is rare that we hear of violent actions inside or outside the court.
What happened yesterday shows our security officials were not prepared for such incidents. Eyewitnesses said there was chaos during the altercation and after, but the two security personnel couldn’t do much. Perhaps, they were overwhelmed by the rare incident.
The incident also comes after the judiciary had discussed the need for tightening security measures with police earlier this week.
While no one might have expected a high-ranking official, a former dzongdag and also a president of the national referral hospital, to stab an official, it was learnt there was ruckus even after the High Court judgment on the same case. The security personnel and court officials could have learnt a lesson and prepared better.
The incident also calls for better safety practices with screening equipment like x-ray devices and metal detecting machines or walk through doorways. It’s also time our security officials show their grit and deny entry to people who do not cooperate with security screening procedures.
The police cannot afford to remain silent. They owe an explanation to the public about how the lapses occurred. Punishing a few constables should not be considered as fixing accountability.
The Supreme Court should also take moral and professional accountability for the incident and ensure there is an investigation into how the incident occurred right under the nose of the Justices.
It should be the only case where ACC officials and the convicts, along with their family members and supporters, walked out of the courtroom together. How can the police van and jailors arrive only after the incident?
The court premises should be safe. Such incidents will not help when citizens are questioning the judiciary and the justice system.
People come to courts believing they are safe under the protection of the law and their rights will be protected, but altercations like this make them lose faith. The judiciary and police have the mandate to safeguard litigants.
Another question in hindsight is why did all top ACC officials attend the court session yesterday. It instigates the defendant when on the losing side. The ACC legal officer could have conveyed the court decision without having to anger the defendants.