In accordance with the Constitution and the Judicial Service Act, the Chief Justice of Bhutan, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye announced his retirement. He made a formal submission of his retirement to His Majesty a month ago.
Born to Babu/Lopen Tashi and Aum Nimin Daza of Nagkhor, Pemagatshel, Lyonpo is an alumna of Dr. Graham Homes in Kalimpong. Lyonpo assumed many offices and served under various capacities in his illustrious career spanning over 43 years in the services of the Royal Government.
Lyonpo began his service at a very early age. He served as (Ziminangma) Master of the household to His Majesty the Third King and (Soelpon) Chamberlain to His Majesty the Fourth King. Lyonpo is the youngest person to receive the red scarf at the age of 25 in 1974. In 1991, he was awarded the Deputy Minister’s rank and scarf.
From 1991 till 2009, Lyonpo served as the Chief Justice of the High Court and became the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on February 2010. His tenure as the President of the SAARCLAW from January 2011 to May 2014 saw the revival of SAARCLAW as a pioneer organization for cooperation between legal luminaries in the SAARC region.
Under the guidance of benevolent Monarchs, Lyonpo brought about major reforms in the Judiciary with introduction of ICT, procedural uniformity, training of professional judges and enhancing access to justice especially the infrastructural developments. The construction of the Supreme Court was carried out under his personal supervision. Lyonpo is also a strict disciplinarian and has contributed to imbibing the traditional culture values, etiquette and discipline in the courts and among the judges.
Lyonpo was the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee. This singular honour to guide the Committee was bestowed by His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. Drafting a constitution requires pre-knowledge of the various constitutions prevailing in the contemporary world, deep knowledge of law, and a thorough understanding of the history and ethos of Bhutan. Lyonpo is fond of reading and writing and has a wide collection of books.
Lyonpo has a keen interest in political philosophies, in particular the Buddhist philosophies and has written papers on the subject.
Lyonpo received many national and international awards and recognition, some of which are “Order of the Druk Wangyel” from His Majesty the King, ‘Medaille d’Honneur’ in recognition of outstanding contribution for the cause of Justice by the French Judiciary, International Jurist Award from the International Council of Jurists and the Honorary Bencher of the Inner temple London. Lyonpo was honoured with a Degree of Doctorate of Law by the NALSAR University of India.
Having attained the age of 65 years on 15th November 2014, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye demits office as per Section 6(a) of Article 21 of the Constitution that “The term of the office of the Chief Justice of Bhutan shall be five years or until attaining the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.”