2020 sees drop in financial cases and a rise in crime cases: Judiciary

As per the Royal Court of Justice Annual Report 2020, there were 6,998 new cases registered including the appeal cases in the High Court and Supreme Court. 2,707 cases were carried forward from 2019. As per the report, Thimphu and Phuentsholing courts had the highest number of registered cases among the dzongkhag and Dungkhag courts respectively.

However, the reason for some courts having higher numbers of registered cases can be attributed to higher population and concentration of economic and social activities.

In 2020, a total of 3,657 civil cases were registered out of which monetary cases contributed the highest with 1,674 cases. Comparing to 2019, there is decrease of more than fifty percent in monetary cases.

On the other hand, 1,205 criminal cases were registered in 2020, which is an increase of 3 percent comparing to 2019. Amongst the criminal cases, assault and battery contributed the highest with 307 cases.

The report states that the total case pending for 2020 stood at 2,873 cases of which 342 cases are pending for more than 1 year and in total 6,832 cases were decided.

The cases pending for more than a year is due to circumstances, such as waiting for the forensic report, signature or thumb impression verification from experts outside the country, complexities of cases, absconding respondents, and inability to trace witnesses, states the report.

9,541 cases were registered in 2019, with 202 cases pending from 2018.

Chief Justice Chogyal Dago Rigdzin stated that the spread of coronavirus has thrown the world into disarray, and dealing with post pandemic will require changes in how they normally function. Technology will play a major factor in navigating the post pandemic period, he added.

“The pandemic brought about profound changes in a day-to-day operations of court. In matter of days, court shifted from in-person to virtual for all but essential court services during the lockdown. While this has been a year of unimaginable challenges, it has also been one of the great achievements and lessons for the future,” he said.

He also said that judges used a wide range of available audio and video conferencing tools for virtual hearings in the last two lockdowns.

The judiciary also faced various challenges such as, a perceived lack of trust and confidence in the courts and justice sector with a social stigma existing if people need to go to court.

Consistency in decision-making in the application of procedures and systems also provide challenges to accessing the courts, the report states, adding that ongoing professional capacity development at all levels is seen as a challenge within the judiciary.

Though the judiciary is seen as being independent in its decision-making function, however, it felt that it is not independent in terms of its administration (both personnel and financial) and finances, points the report.

The report also states, “Recognizing the threat posed with the nature of job, strengthening security for judges and justices to protect them from threats by parties is imperative. In this way judicial officers will be able to perform their professional functions more effectively without fear from threats, intimidation, hindrance, harassment, or improper interference.”

Improving utility of the case management system is also a key challenge for the judiciary as per the report. Low levels of legal literacy and limited access to legal advice result in most litigants appearing in court in person as pro se (unrepresented) litigants, the report adds.

Meanwhile, they have made an achievement at a same time with institutional strengthening, establishment of Court Annexed Mediation (CAM) and infrastructure development.

Reports states that Electronic litigation (e-litigation), development of judiciary strategic plan (21st Century Judiciary Roadmap), development of Child Justice Concept Paper and development of   concept paper for justice garden and waste management and Video Conferencing System (VCS) are some of the achievements made.

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