Friday, July 17, 2015

The application of the Law of the Land in the Government versus Chang Ugyen legal battle.

The Laws of the Land are :  The Thrimzhung Chhenmo of 1959 ; The Civil and the Criminal Procedure Code of Bhutan of 2001 ; The Penal Code of Bhutan of 2004 and The Constitution of Bhutan of 2008.

This is not a discussion about the politics of the case. I am singularly interested in the High Court interpretation of the basis of the appeal made by the Office of the Attorney General on behalf of the Government.

Chang Ugyen was convicted of possessing land properties through illegal land registration manipulation by the High Court in 2008 and made to replace the lands so aquired. The lands he had illegally acquired were not forfeited instead he was made to replace the lands ( I suppose from some other similar value areas ). It seems no additional penalty was levied on him for the illegal deeds.

The case was complicated from the beginning with Chang Ugyen denying wrong doing but nevertheless accepting the High Court Verdict. In the recent criminal charge regarding the same issue, he denied committing any criminal deed but accepted the verdict of the Dzongkhag Court in the larger interest of concluding the case according to his lawyer.

In 2014 the PDP Government had sought punishment for Chang Ugyen's illegal deed which the Government deemed to be  criminal in nature and not addressed in the High Court verdict of 2008. So a criminal law suit regarding the same land registration manipulation case was filed against Chang Ugen by the OAG on behalf of the Government in 2014 in the Thimphu Dzongkhag Court.

The illegal deeds were suspected to have been committed in between 1987 and 1989 when the Law of the Land was the Thrimzhung Chhenmo. So the OAG had charged Chang Ugyen under the Thrimzhung Chhenmo. And as generally expected, the Dzongkhag Court, too , seems to have issued its verdict based on the Thrimzhung Chhenmo.

Now the OAG appeal is contesting the appropriateness of the Dzongkhag Court in basing the verdict on the Thrimzhung Chhenmo under which the defendant was charged. The crux of the OAG grievance is seeking a prison term for Chang Ugyen. According to OAG if the Dzongkhag Court had based its verdict on more recent Laws of the Land instead of Thrimzhung Chhenmo, the defendant would get a prison term.

The more recent Laws of the Land were not in vogue then and the criminal charge was also made under Thrimzhung Chhenmo which was in vogue then.

Will the High Court refer the case back to the Dzongkhag Court Bench with a directive to review the case under the more recent Laws of the Land or reject the OAG appeal ?

Till now the biggest land manipulation case that came to the Court maybe the GyalpoShing case filed by ACC. The Case moved from Monger Dzongkgag Court to High Court and finally at Supreme Court. No one was subjected to prison term but the lands in question were forfeited and involved defendants subjected to other penalties as a consequence.


  1. Substantive laws cannot be applied retrospectively mena much as O?

  2. However, in this case the victim is not acquitted

  3. Bhutan is not far from becoming Lawless country like Africa,Colombia,Afghanistan,etc.