Withdrawal of a criminal case

After Kuensel reported “Cleaner’s wife alleges Drangpon’s wife of assault” this week, the netizens flooded social media questioning the handling of the case. One question was whether the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) can withdraw the complaint or not. Both RBP and the Judiciary provided additional information on the case through their social media page.  RBP stated that “the victim informed the police that she wanted to withdraw the case and resolve it internally. The police allowed the case to be withdrawn, after completing the case withdrawal formalities in the presence of the Riserboo hospital staff.”  The post reads, when the father of the victim wanted to re-register the case later, it was re-registered.

The Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (CCPC) and RBP Act, 2009 are two important laws in this regard. Section 161 of CCPC provides detailed duties of police in case of criminal cases. First, it imposes a duty on “every police to promptly detect, apprehend and bring offenders to justice.” Second, once any person makes a complaint to police, police have the duty to convert the complaint in writing, “make efforts to verify the accuracy of the complaint expeditiously,” conduct a preliminary investigation, record any statements made or evidence including a description of the suspect and potential witnesses. Section 162 mandates police to prepare a crime report for a warrant of arrest if required. Section 190 mandates the court to conduct the preliminary hearing within 10 days from the day of registering the case to review and “determine whether sufficient cause exists to proceed with a criminal prosecution.”

Various provisions under RBP Act re-iterates the duties provided under the CCPC. For example, Section 111 of the RBP Act prohibits the police from deciding or compromising any case. Sections 48, 93 and 103 imposes similar duties under Sections 161 and 162 of CCPC including requirement to handover a copy police crime report (PCR) to the complainant and duty to “obtain death or injury report from a medical officer.”  Section 91 provides minimum requirements in conducting investigation among other special attention to the vulnerable person and submit the investigation report in the form of the charge sheet to a court of law.”   Both CCPC and RBP Act does not provide any specific provision authorizing the RBP to allow withdrawal of any case. Contrarily the above sections are implicit that RBP does not have authority to allow the withdrawal of a case once the complaint has been made.   The only provision to withdraw a criminal case is found under Section 202 of CCPC which is the domain of the court upon request by the prosecution.

The possible rationales for not authorizing the RBP to allow withdrawal case may be because under Article 28(3) of the Constitution, RBP’s primary responsibility is to maintain “law and order and prevent crime” and not an adjudicating authority. Further, direct withdrawal of the case by RBP may also contravene concepts of conviction or acquittal in a criminal case which is the domain of judiciary. Therefore, explanation of “completing the case withdrawal formalities” on their social media page needs further elaboration to establish the legal basis or else such post would cast more doubts than clarifications in the minds of the public. His Majesty reminded that “the failure of justice persecutes an individual, but the lack of adherence to rule of law persecutes an entire nation.”

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.

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