No written instruction from SC: Sakteng Drangpon

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Wamrong battery case – update

While the local media on June 5 quoted Officiating Chief Justice of Bhutan (OCJB) Kuenley Tshering as saying that the Supreme Court (SC) had already directed the Sakteng Drangpon to handle the case, Sakteng Drangpon Tenzin Dorji told Business Bhutan that he was assigned to handle the Wamrong battery case only yesterday verbally by the Trashigang Drangpon but he did not receive any written instruction from the Supreme Court.

Business Bhutan called up Justice Kuenley Tshering but the call was rejected. 

The relatives of the victim in the Wamrong battery case have petitioned the SC to move the case to Thimphu district court despite the SC assigning an independent judge to preside over the case at the Wamrong drungkhag court.

Tampering of evidence 

Wamrong Drangpon deleting the evidence (video clip) was not investigated by the police and when Business Bhutan contacted the Wamrong Officer in-command (OC), he said that he was instructed not to speak on the case and if the paper wanted any information then it should contact the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) headquarter. 

While the husband of the victim, Karma, claimed that the police were informed about the Drangpon deleting the clip and it was also stated in their complaint letter, the OC had not mentioned it in the charge-sheet report forwarded to the court.

According to the Penal Code of Bhutan (section 300), a defendant shall be guilty of the offense of tampering with documents, if the defendant, with the intent to defraud, deceive, or injure another person or to conceal wrongdoing, removes, mutilates, destroys, conceals, or falsifies a written instrument of the following type: (a) A record or document pertaining to a legal proceeding that has not been filed in court. The offense of tampering with documents shall be a misdemeanour.

The Drangpon had summoned the victim, her husband, and her son to his house and questioned what had happened. When she narrated how she was battered by his wife and when the alleged suspect denied the allegation the victim revealed that her son had a video recording of the incident.

The one minute and 47 seconds video clip shows the suspect and the victim having a heated debate and towards the end of the video the alleged suspect moves forward and starts hitting the victim. 

The Drangpon then asked the victim’s son to delete the video recording of the incident but the boy had already shared the clip with some of their relatives. The video recording was deleted afterwards.

RENEW clarifies

After the Wamrong battery case was forwarded to the court on May 21, almost a week later on May 27 at around 11:27 am the victim received a call from an unknown woman saying that she is from RENEW (Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women). 

During the conversation with the victim, the woman had inquired about the incident and told her that the chances of her winning the case was doubtful so if possible she should compromise the case internally. Details such as her marital status and the number of children she had were also asked.

One of the relatives of the victim called the number several times but there was no response so he called Telecom to find out the details of the number. He was told by Telecom that the number belonged to Trashigang Middle Secondary School. 

Clarifying about the phone call to the victim, the Executive Director of RENEW, Tshering Dolkar said the RENEW office in Thimphu was not aware of the phone call made to the victim by the volunteer in Trashigang until the day before yesterday (June 3) when Business Bhutan had contacted the office to enquire about the call.  

The focal person of RENEW Trashigang called up RENEW office but was unable to contact the officials since it was a holiday.

The ED agreed that the call was indeed made by one of the volunteers of RENEW in Trashigang but she also mentioned that the call was made with good intention which was misunderstood by the victim. 

She said the focal person of the RENEW based in Trashigang is a male and on May 27, he had asked one of the volunteers (woman) to talk over the phone to the victim as he thought the victim would be comfortable talking to another woman. 

The female volunteer during the conversation had asked the victim about her marital status, citizenship identity number, and the number of children she had.The reason for asking for such details was because RENEW has a client intake form where these details were mandatory to be filled. (Reporter was shown the form for verification).

The name and the mobile number of the alleged suspect were also asked from the victim saying that they would also contact her. It was also confirmed that the alleged suspect was called but despite attempting for over half an hour and 45 minutes, she did not respond to the call.

Tshering Dolkar said that it is beyond their authority to ask anyone to resolve cases internally especially of criminal nature. “We don’t want to RENEW to be misunderstood. 

We fight for victims, no matter who they are and support irrespective of their gender, children, and status. We are here to provide support but not to defame or influence the decision of the victims.”

“The intention was misunderstood during the call incident.” she added.

The ED said that RENEW would still like to support the victim.

 “The office is far but RENEW volunteers are based in all the dzongkhags to render support.” 

Background

On April 27, the cleaner of Wamrong Dungkhag Court reported to Wamrong police that his wife was battered by the Drangpon’s wife the previous day. On April 29, the victim informed the police that she wanted to withdraw the case and the case was withdrawn.

However, on May 4, the victim’s father re-registered the case, as his daughter (the victim) was admitted to Mongar Regional Referral Hospital. The investigation of the case was initiated although police never called the suspect to the police station for interrogation. 

The Wamrong police received the medical examination report on May 20 from Mongar hospital and accordingly the case was forwarded to Wamrong Drungkhag Court on May 21. 

The CT scan conducted at Mongar hospital revealed an impression of “break in the outer cortex of left lamina of C2 vertebra fracture and straightened cervical curvature, possibly due to muscle spasm.”

Chencho Dema from Thimphu

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