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OL meets Sonam Tshering; Lawyer says court passes verdict without prosecutor

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Opposition Leader (OL) and President of People’s Democratic Party, Tshering Tobgay,  on Friday visited Sonam Tshering, the first Bhutanese citizen to be convicted under the anti-smoking law, at his detention camber and expressed such a long stay in jail would destroy the career of the 23-years-old monk student.

OL Tshering Tobgay

OL Tobgay told reporters yesterday in Thimphu that Sonam Tshering wanted to appeal to the high court.

The next opposition party member and Member of Parliament from Gasa, Damchoe Dorji, commented that the sentence should be appropriate to the degree of crime committed. He said his party never debated and voted for the anti-smoking act in the parliament.

MP Dorji also questioned if the court verdict to slap a three-year jail term to a monk accused of purchasing just 48 packets of tobacco was just to gain the international recognition. . “Everyone knows the sentence was not proportionate,” online edition of the Kuensel wrote quoting Dorji as saying. He demanded amendment at the earliest.

OL Tobgay, who also met another accused, Lhab Tshering being tried at the same court on tobacco smuggling, said one lawyer Choeda of UC Associates would represent Sonam to make the Thimphu Court’s verdict bailable at the High Court.

The Lawyer commented to the Kuensel that the judgment was passed without even having a prosecutor for Sonam Tshering.

“No judge can pass the judgment without a prosecutor,” he said. “If he cannot afford then the state should provide the lawyer according to the civil and criminal procedure.”

12 COMMENTS

  1. What is the actual intention of tobacco law? Prevention, Punishment, Publicity, intimidation or Protection of Public Health? The three year imprisonment is out of mind and unacceptable not only because it is too harsh but also because the legal procedures required in dispensation of justice were not followed. The OL from PDP did a good job. He went and met with the victim. Already OL has won acclaim for winning against the JYT led government in recent Supreme Court case. OL seems to be more concerned with people’s plight than JYT ministers. It’s time PDP starts planning it’s strategy and future course of actions to ensure JYT and his comrades are shown the door to exit in the next elections. I wish all the best to OL. Keep up your good work.

  2. How can the judge give the verdict without prosecuter to young man just for possassing the cigrettee? It is the same system of of autocracy. It is not the demoracy. In a democray one should get the prosecuter. With out the defendend attorny how can a lay man defend in the court of law? It is just the eye wash to international communities. OL should raise the voice of the people from the parliament to the street then only people wiill get the few right. The judgemet should appeale in the supreme court so that the Sonam will get the pure judgement.

  3. Apart from the procedures not followed, I do not see the verdict being very harsh, compared to what tobacco products can do to the life of hundreds of people. The monk cnnot walk away just by saying that he was not aware of the law. Ignorance is not an excuse for breaching the law. Consequently, he had to face the punishment. Being from such a religious institution, he was settng a bad example for others.

    But everytime, it seems that the small people need to follow the law. DPT – you will do great if you send a high government shot to jail next time.

  4. to laxmi powdel:
    unlike u, we dont judge a peolle or party just by doing one thing. just winning the court case over jyt doesnot prove the ol is superior or wiser than jyt. regarding the tobacco law, it is passed in the assembly so whether it is punishemnt , prevention, intimidation or public health concern, it is a law passed by rightful legislators not by refugees like u. ol visiting the convicts is just like vidyapati mioshra openly writting to the nepal pm regarding the issuue of refugees.both of them has a vested interest.

    lastlty that monk is adisgrace to the zhung dratsang and the jekhenpo himself, undermining the image of the gelongs and the buddha. he should be punished for 6 years. bailing the gelong convict is useless. this man will not go back to the dratshang. he is asmuggler.

  5. Hon’ble Opposition Leader,
    As the opposition leader of the parliament of democratic Bhutan You have the right to oppose what is just not democratic. When JYT can Smoke Imported
    chancellors why not a ordinary monk?
    How come the court sentence a monk without a defence counsel ? Is this the basis of law in democratic Bhutan. As a opposition leader you have the privilege of protests against undemocratic culture.
    If you cannot do this as a sitting opposition leader you fail as a opposition leader and democracy in Bhutan. When this continue to happen the same old practice of JSW will be felt every where and a sence of democracy goes off from practice.
    We support you fully to bring changes inside Bhutan in true sense.Why don’t you contact all democratic forces in exile for better future in Bhutan!

  6. Pasangsherpa,
    I don’t need lessons from you in law. You seem to be a supporter of JYT. Tell me frankly what JYT and his team did in achieving democracy development in Bhutan, in alleviating poverty, in reducing unemployment and increasing household and individual income for poor Bhutanese? What programs they brought for unemployed rural and urban youth who hang around with no gainful employment. These ministers and JYT waste most of their time in propagating GNH while poor Bhutanese have no means of living. You said the monk deserves 6 years because your mind set is feudal and you have no respect for people’s rights and liberties. More people die in Bhutan every year due to aara, due to stomach cancer caused by chilly, throat cancer caused by doma and other diseases because people lack education and awareness. Most of the crimes including murders and domestic violence are caused by alchoholic drinks. Ban them. Why punish a poor monk?

  7. Laxmi Poudel:
    Development in Bhutan is there to see, if you can ever come to Bhutan. Democracy doesn’t have to suit everyone’s aspect, specially not the aspects of refugees like you. JYT proudly absorbs the critics barking in the street, including the opposition leader. And, as passang clearly mentioned, his voice is intended to benefit his political game, not the population of the country.

  8. Laxmi Powdel:
    I am a supporter of JYT and DPT. as u have asked, let me tell u that the biggest thing YHT and his party did is rebuilding and reopeniong of all the schools which you and your frens burnt down to ashes in 1990s and so may developmental changes occurred under the leadership of JYT. the tobacco law was passed in the assembly, so there is no use of people like you, throwing unnecessary opinions. Laxmi: you are already a refugee, so its radiculous to see that u r commenting on what is happening here. May be that’s the rubbish and germs that u picked up in Jhapa, bothering about what others are doing. Otherwise, i would fully appreciate ur comments if u r a genuine bhutanese.

    Bara bhutan, USA:
    u r so ambitious to ask the OL to get the support from the failed illdemocratic parties outside bhutan.they are failed democratic party, so they are outside not inside. The OL is supporting the convict as he is the OL and its his duty. He may even fight personal cases with JYT or protest each and every step JYT takes BUT he is not such a fool to be fooled by people like u.

  9. It is great to hear that OL is able to raise the concerned about the stringent jailed sentence slapped to a monk. It is absurd to see the court verdict. The Supreme Court should revoke the junior court judgment to save the otherwise, tarnish image of Bhutan.

    I am totally shocked to hear that the sentencing a man for carrying some silly stuff like couple packets of tobacco for personal use. I am cynical about the possession of foreign imported tobacco by the influential and the so called elites of Bhutan. Everybody in Bhutan chew Doma (nut) with lime, which is more injurious than tobacco itself. They chew it and spit anywhere and everywhere, which spoils the serene environment of the country. If Bhutan is serious about the control of toxic materials then it should frame the legislation to control Doma and other toxic as well.

  10. Apart from enacting a law, did the government proactively inform the Public that such a law had been enacted?

    Was there a transitional period to educate rural people? Rural people of Bhutan may be the most hard hit by laws that the city folks like to fantasize and impose without information.

    Where was your JYT’s PEOPLE SPIRIT to create policies to educate THE PEOPLE? A question to all the commentators who ardently support JYT.

    Smoking in Bhutan is not completely banned by the Act. Public smoking is illegal but private smoking in some hotels is legal. And would you think smokers just before the law was passed stopped smoking after the law was enacted?

    Another thing to ponder on is, tobacco trade in Bhutan if done by paying taxes is completely legal.

    So the rich are aware of the laws, they can pay the taxes and also smoke in hotels. The rural people are neither aware of the laws, may not be able to pay the taxes and would probably smoke in a public place because they wouldn’t have the money to enter a hotel to smoke. The handful of rich Drukpas win while the poor Drukpas can go to prison for three years.

    Ofcourse the judges of the Court have never been kept inside a prison for a day, so how would they know the pain?

    If Sonam knew that he could bring in Tobacco on paying tax to the government according to the Act, he would have probably left the tobacco at the border instead of paying taxes.

    Can’t you see, it is unfair to impose penalty when someone is unaware?

    I am surprised to see the Courts of Bhutan are so immature and unprotective of the rights of a Drukpa citizen. The Parliament made a law without providing education, while the government enforced without consideration……..

    The court could have at least seen a person’s liberty was endangered and should have protected a citizen. The Judiciary has the leverage to decide what is fair, not just enforce the law. If Judiciary also does what the government does, whats the use of a Judiciary?

  11. The Tobacco Control Board Notification of 8 December 2010 provided to all travelers prescribes in section 4, that a person can import 200 sticks of cigarettes, 30 pieces of cigar or 150 gms tobacco or other tobacco products, per month on payment of 100% Sales Tax and 100% customs.

    Was the court even conscious whether Sonam’s case involves reasonableness to plead innocent?

    The doctrine (ignorance of the law is no excuse) the Court applied, should have been reserved for criminals who would obviously plead innocent like Sonam. But is the court trying to say that there is no difference between criminals and a person like Sonam? Criminals would be cheating, Sonam did not cheat, for he was not hiding it.

    There is stark difference between a person who acts to be innocent and a person who is in reality unaware of the law.

    The role of the Judiciary is to be fair, instead of coughing up a few legal maxims!

    I would like to draw the attention of all of you to Article 7.3. of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan which provides. “A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to information”.

    Sonam’s constitutional right to be informed as a citizen by education has been violated, his freedom has been restricted, and all the court could do was lick the government’s ass and say the public wanted such a law.

    And Bhutan should be public oriented in the right way, not just say it. Sonam’s constitutional right could even save him from this imprisonment if he proves that he was not hiding the Tobacco.

    Hope that happens on appeal..

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