Attorney General removed from office

Attorney General Lungten Dubgyur will be the first AG to be removed from office. This is after the Prime Minister’s Office issued a release saying the AG has been removed from Office with immediate effect.

It said the decision was arrived at based on the findings and recommendations of the Independent Committee constituted in keeping with Section 94 of the Office of the Attorney General Act.

The Independent Committee, formed on August 23, to determine the involvement of the AG in a drug related case and subsequent reversal of judgement at High Court Bench I, submitted the report to Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering on September 8, 2023.

The Prime Minister said institutions like the OAG are the bodies that serve as pillars of justice, entrusted to safeguard the rule of law and uphold the rights of the citizens. Any compromise on integrity undermines the noble purpose and therefore, leaves no room for consideration.

“I sincerely pray that this step, though unfortunate, will remind all of us to maintain highest professionalism, and reestablish our commitment to transparency and accountability while in service of the nation,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that the findings showed ‘indications of interference’ and the Committee found enough evidence to recommend for his removal.

The PM said things like messages sent to the judiciary, the Phajoding trip and the non appeal of the case were all there.

He said the committee did not have to dig deep as it found enough evidence.

The committee presented the report to the PM on Thursday and had a two house meeting with him.

In its investigation the committee also gave a hearing to the AG.

The PM said that since the AG has been removed he will not be allowed to take his benefits.

The removal of the AG who is a former High Court judge also means that the legal career of the AG is effectively over.

On the appointment of a new AG the PM said he would discuss the matter with the cabinet and take into account the fact that the government has only a month and a half left.

The AG’s resignation letter submitted to the Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering on 8 August 2023 was not accepted and instead an Enquiry Committee was set up to investigate if the AG breached his Code of Conduct as per the OAG Act 2015.

According to an earlier release from the Supreme Court the issue all started when the Kuensel Dzongkha Editor’s son was caught trafficking in drugs and was sentenced to five years by the Thimphu District Court in 2019. The prosecution was done under the earlier AG Shera Lhendup.

Things changed when the AG Lungten Dubgyur took over in 2020. While the case was still sub judice in the High Court the AG took an overnight trek to Phajoding with High Court Justice Pema Rinzin and the Kuensel Dzongkha Editor.

The two High Court Justices Pema Rinzin and Tshering Dorji of Bench I overturned the District court sentence.

It was observed that though the OAG normally appeals against such total reversal of judgments, in this particular case, the Office did not appeal to the Supreme Court. In fact, it was the AG which said it is not necessary to appeal.

After a complaint alleging collusion had been filed against the High Court judgment overturning the district court conviction a committee of the High Court Chief Justice, Supreme Court Registrar General and High Court Registrar General looked into the legitimacy of the complaint and based on the committee’s report, the Supreme Court issued a direction to the High Court ordering a review of the case, in the interest of justice and upholding the Rule of Law.

A Special Bench at the High Court, after a thorough review, found that Bench I had indeed caused a grave miscarriage of justice.

When the Special Bench of the High Court was reviewing the drug case judgment of the High Court, the AG messaged a lawyer who is the Personal Secretary of the President of the Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI) with a message asking for the lawyer to interfere in the review judgment of the Special Bench and to get it dropped.

BNLI and the lawyer declined to cooperate with the message sent at odd hours and the lawyer submitted the messages to the Supreme Court Chief Justice.

After the High Court Special Bench passed its judgment overturning the High Court judgment the AG again through messaging contacted a Justice of the special bench asking why did the Justice do this and asked who directed the Justice etc.

The matter is even more serious taking into account the fact that the AG is a member of the four–member National Judicial Commission (NJC) that selects the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justices of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice and Justices of the High Court.

A letter from the Chief Justice to the PM informing him of the case and the findings asked the PM to take ‘appropriate action,’ against the AG.

The two suspended justices are unlikely to be reinstated and the Kuensel Dzongkha Editor has already resigned.

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One comment

  1. I still can’t believe that this happened esp when these people were the ones whom i really looked up to.

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