ACC says shaken but will deliver its mandate as more details emerge

New details are emerging on the stabbing and assault of senior ACC officials at the Supreme Court on 29 April which also show how the incident could have been worse.

On 29 April there was a hearing at the Supreme Court after lunch presided over by Justice Sangay Khandu, Justice Tashi Chhozom and Justice Norbu Tshering.

Gathered below were three lawyers of the defendants, the defendants and the family members of Lhab Dorji, three lawyers from ACC, the ACC Chairperson, ACC Commissioner Jamtsho, ACC Director of Investigation Gyeltshen, one investigation officer and a media focal officer.

Justice Sangay Khandu informed the gathering that today nobody will be given the chance to speak as all sides have had their say. He said the judgment running into more than a 100 pages need not be read and so the clerk will read the main 14 pages giving out the verdict.

The reading was over relatively fast as the Judgment was read out.

An eyewitness said then the people started leaving from the front rows. The ACC Director followed the three defence lawyers out of the inner courtroom into the passage.

He was still bent low with his Kabney down and the light outside was bright especially coming out of a relatively darker courtroom.

Waiting by the outer passage was Lhab Dorji with his son next him to resting by the door.

Before the Director could even see what was happening Lhab Dorji gave out a cry saying “Nge rayngi ga” (are you satisfied) and then punched the unprepared Director whose glasses went flying.

An eye witness then saw Lhab Dorji’s both sons and wife join in the attack against the Director.

A second eye witness said that Lhab Dorji made a stabbing motion with his hand towards the lower half of Gyeltshen’s body which must have been the knife found later.

Just behind the Director was Commissioner Jamtsho who attempted to save the off-balance Director by grabbing him and pulling him inside. The Commissioner was also attacked as a few blows landed on his chest.

There was then a lot of commotion as the attack unfolded.

The Commissioner managed to get the Director into the courtroom where the three justices were still there.

A female ACC lawyer then did some quick thinking to run and shut the main door of the courtroom and bolt it just in the nick of time.

The second eyewitness saw the door being banged and pushed against. He said that it seemed like the attackers wanted to get inside.

The second eye witness then saw a young unidentified woman banging on the court windows from outside and screaming something.

Here Justice Sangay Khandu looked at the locked door being pushed at and remarked that it looks like they are after them (the justices) too.

Around this time a male voice outside the court shouted the slogan ‘Pelden Drukpa Gyelo.’

Inside, people started to notice that the Director was bleeding profusely from his left hand which was when Commissioner Jamtsho held up the Director’s hand to the Justices to show what happened and he also asked about the security arrangements at the court.

It was also noticed that the Kabney of the Director had a hole through it made by the knife. The knife had pierced the kabney and hit the outer left hand of the Director. This was a narrow escape of sorts as the knife could have easily found the abdomen or one of the organs of the Director.

In the meantime, the Registrar General was alerted who was tasked to call the police and also clear the passageway outside.

For their safety, the ACC officials, others and the Justices stayed in the court room for another 20 to 30 minutes.

 After this the ACC officials came out of the courtroom and started walking towards the parking but when they reached halfway they saw a lot of police but Lhab Dorji and his family were still in the parking area.

The ACC officials decided it was not safe to go to the parking area and they called their drivers to bring the car to the alternate entrance for the Justices from where they left taking the Director to the hospital, where he received four stiches on his hand. The Director’s one eye was of a greenish red colour due to the punch while there were also some bruises above his eyes.

While the police later found the knife in a dustbin near the toilet, the glasses of the Director was not found indicating that someone got hold of it, but decided not to return it. It may have been a part of the attempt to clean up the crime scene.

The Director had to later head to town with the Commissioner to buy new glasses.

The ACC office has around 133 employees and many of them waited till late in the evening to see how the Director was doing.

An ACC official said that on Saturday many ACC officials went to the Director’s home. The official said that the Director’s wife was very traumatized with what had happened to her husband. The Director has a daughter studying in Thimphu and a son studying in Punakha. The son came home to check on his father.

What made matters worse for the family and the ACC officials was to see comments online on social media celebrating the stabbing or justifying it directly or indirectly. ACC officials told the Director not to be hurt by the comments as they must be made by a disgruntled few people.

Monday was a government holiday and on Tuesday the Director with a bandaged hand and bruises still on him joined office.

The ACC official said the Director joined the office in order to keep morale up at the office and ensure that officers and especially the younger investigation officers are not discouraged.

The morale had been affected for a while not only with the attack, but also the subsequent social media support by some for the action.

The ACC Chairperson organized a general staff meeting where the Director who kept a clam demeanor spoke and asked the officials to not feel discouraged or lose their morale in serving the public and the nation.

The Director said that the attack on him should not give the impression that the ACC is now afraid or will not be able to function effectively.

The ACC has formed a taskforce to improve security for ACC officials be it in the office or on the field. The ACC official said that until now they had only anticipated verbal attacks or insults, but they had never anticipated an actual physical attack, but this has now become a reality.

The ACC Director had joined the ACC in 2007 as an investigation officer and over the years was promoted to Deputy Chief and Chief in the investigation department and then he took part in an open competition to become the Director of Investigation.

What has surprised ACC officials is on why Lhab Dorji targeted the Director as the only interaction between the two was one time when Lhab Dorji was questioned in ACC and other then that, the two do not know each other.

Another ACC official said that on speculation on why the Commission members and the Director came to the court they said this is standard practice for ACC cases on the final day for judgment. He said for example ACC did the same in the Gyelpozhing case verdicts. He denied that ACC knew what would happen in advance.

It has been learnt that all former ACC Commissioners and Chairs including Dasho Neten Zangmo enquired after the Director and the Commissioner.

Prior to the incident at the Supreme Court, when the High Court gave its final judgment there was some tension as Lhab Dorji and his relatives again gathered in large numbers at the parking and were not leaving.

The two High Court Judges got a feeling that they were waiting for them and so the judges after waiting for a while asked the drivers to bring the vehicles at the other exit of the justices and then they left.

Following this the RG on the instructions of the Chief Justice wrote to the VVIP RBP police to ensure that people do not stay in the parking area.

A source in the RBP said that while they received a letter on this there was no specific mention of the Lhab Dorji case as if that had been mentioned then the police would have come in large numbers at the SC hearing.

“All of us at ACC were deeply disturbed and shaken. Traumatic as it was, the abysmal standard of public discipline and conduct in utter disregard of the rule of law, public institutions and public servants was a stark and hard reminder of why ACC exists, and why it is so important that we continue to unfailingly deliver on our sacred mandate,” said the ACC Chairperson Deki Pema.

She said that risks are inherent to the nature of the job, the incident underlined the role of adequate safety measures and need for the security of ACC officials to be given attention, priority and assured to the extent possible

She said that all of them at the ACC feel deeply grateful and moved by the expressions of solidarity and support.

“We draw strength and inspiration from the Enlightened Vision of a Society defined and characterized by Integrity and remain motivated by the necessity and relevance of our work towards this. We are, more than ever, resolute and determined to continue to fulfill our duty and mandate professionally and fearlessly,” said the Chairperson.

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