Court language

Apart from its main decision on the Dasho Benji case, the Bench five of the Thimphu District Court in its court findings section, has challenged the contention that Dzongkha is the language of the court.

It says that the inability of litigants to understand the language used in the court can create significant barriers to justice.

A court of law should be last place in the Bhutanese system where experiments are carried out to promote Dzongkha. While promotion of the national language will and should always remain a priority, it should not come at the cost of justice.

When people go to courts they often do so to decide important matters of liberty, property, lifelong reputations and justice. Also all manners of people go from the educated to the uneducated.

The job of the court is to hear out the litigants as clearly as possible and deliver justice, and rather not serve as a judicial Dzongkha ‘super-lopen’.

There are more than enough and more sensible avenues to promote Dzongkha from our education system to the arts and beyond.

In the recent past some of the most interesting and important public cases have been fought in English, be it the Tax case during the former government’s time or the more recent Dasho Benji case. The accessible language of the deliberations and the judgments meant that the entire nation was well educated on two important cases of our time.

It is also revealing that both the former government and the then Opposition party in the Tax case and Dasho Benji and his legal team and DPT in the defamation case chose English, despite their comparatively better resources and abilities.

So, it is only fair that such language courtesies be extended to common folk, who can neither afford expensive lawyers or Dzongkha legal consultants, if only, for the sake of justice.

I think the first duty of society is justice.

Alexander Hamilton

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