Dasho Paljor J. Dorji’s (Dasho Benji) counsel Younten Dorji on Thursday first rebutted DPT’s earlier evidences and then launched into the long evidence submission session to prove its point that the party had ‘robbed the nation blind.’
Rebuttal of DPT’s evidences
On the submission of DPT’s print copy of Dasho Benji’s statement, the lawyer said that this was something which Dasho Benji had never denied saying in the first place and so it does not prove anything.
DPT had earlier submitted a copy of His Majesty the Fourth King’s Kasho appointing Dasho Benji as special advisor to the National Environment Commission to show that he was a public servant.
Here lawyer Younten said “the very content of the Kasho renders it conclusive that the Defendant was appointed by His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo as Special Adviser to National Environment Commission and is not a civil servant appointed by RCSC under RCSC Act as in the cases of regular civil servants in the Kingdom.”
The lawyer said that the from the evidences submitted the Plaintiff had not only failed to prove the wrongful allegations made against the defendant but had also failed to prove the injuries it claimed to have suffered, from the online comment made by the Defendant.
Challenging the DPT’s stand on Dasho Benji being political the lawyer said, “criticism, no matter how severe it may be, cannot be taken to determine a person as political because a person can be skeptical of all the political parties and may criticize all the parties and yet have affiliation to none by membership: which is the clear case with the Defendant’s status in the present suit.”
The lawyer said that his clients position was that as a citizen of a free Kingdom, he has the right to say or write whatever he likes about the Government, its plans and policies by way of criticism or comment: so long as he does not undermine the Kingdom’s peace, security and sovereignty.
Quoting section 331 of the penal code the defense counsel said that DPT was guilty of committing sedition during its party convention meeting held on 13th July 2013 at the YDF conference hall. By way of evidence it submitted a short you tube clip that it had downloaded from the web where party members made statements against His Majesty the King and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.
The lawyer also asked the judge to call for the longer and complete BBS footage of the meeting as additional evidence of sedition.
The lawyer said, “an act of sedition is disloyalty in action and, upon diligent examination of the said video’s content, your honour will find the circumstances under which the convention was held, the manner and mood of the ring-leaders (DPT executive members), the incitement to cause division amongst people, the atmosphere of animosity and discontent generated deliberately amongst its innocent followers to stir up an opposition and to bring into hatred and contempt the Monarch, the Government and the Constitution.”
The lawyer said that viewed from all cannons of law and compelling rulings held and examination of the cited video’s content that at the very onset, the Plaintiff calculated to cause hatred, enmity, disunity, dislikes, hostility, contempt and every form of ill-will against and amongst the Tsa-Wa-Sum.
The defense counsel further stated that the greater fear from the DPT’s commission of cited offence is that it has the potential to breed its own kinds and when the Monarch, Government and Laws ceases to be respected and obeyed, only anarchy is left to follow.
“For the purpose of enduring sovereignty, security and unity of our Monarch, people and the country, it is not only a necessity but also a peremptory requirement in the present suit to take exemplary legal measures to deter the reoccurrence of abominable offence of sedition in future and educate our people of the baneful offence that could only destroy our own survival-hood in the long run,” argued the lawyer in court.
Usurping Royal Prerogatives
The lawyer said that as per old customs and now the Constitution and other laws the prerogative to give Kidu only belonged His Majesty the King.
He said that this Royal prerogative had been usurped in the granting of a second hand Prado at depressed prices as a special case to a civil servant by the previous government.
A copy of the Land Bill 2012 was also submitted where the defense pointed out provisions of the Gyalpoi Zimpon being taken out of the National Land Commission and also the Cabinet appropriating the power to grant land.
Violation of law and policy corruption
Here, the lawyer first talked about the tax case that the former government lost against the then Opposition party in the Supreme Court as an illegal imposition of tax.
He then went on to say that the former government stifled press freedom by withholding advertisements to critical media.
The lawyer the argued that DPT government’s Education City Project in Thimphu had to be discontinued as the NLC found that its 90 year lease tenure terms of DPT’s Concessionaire Agreement executed with FDI company had contravened Section 308 of the Land Act 2007, which specifically provides for the permissible lease tenure limit of state owned land (government land or government reserved forests land) as 30 years, subject to renewal option.
The defense then brought up the Denchi Land compensation issue where it said that compensation rates were paid way above government norms and that the biggest beneficiary was relative of a member of the former cabinet. The lawyer asked the court to summon PAVA members to testify to the fact.
The counsel then said that the DPT government, unilaterally gave the explosive supply contract to one M/S Rabdhuen Pvt Ltd. in contravention of the established Procurement Rules without any tendering. The Defendant requested the Honorable Court to summon MD of STCBL to testify as to how the explosive supply contract was mysteriously given to M/S Rabdhuen Pvt. Ltd., in contravention of the procurement rules.
The defense said that the DPT government had illegally attempted to sell the government lease land of the Trowa Theatre under Thimthrom to its new lessee, one Mr. Kinley Wangchuk.
The lawyer also questioned certain perks taken by DPT ministers like 13 numbers of WagonR cars bought for family use, domestic helpers employed and the vehicle quotas availed without paying sale tax as required by law which, in turn, incurred millions of Ngultrum on the nation’s exchequer.
The lawyer submitted a document entailing Dasho Benji to an electric vehicle through Royal Kasho from His Majesty the Fourth King. However, the lawyer said that with regard to DPT ministers taking home their official duty vehicles (Toyota Prados), laptops and iPhones, the Plaintiff failed to adduce before the court either a King’s Kasho or a written record of the Royal Command conveyed for the presumed soelra.
The Defendant pleaded with the court to summon official records from the Ministry of Finance on the inadmissible expenses incurred on the public resources by the DPT government.
Causing Loss and placing debt
The counsel said that the DPT government has placed a huge debt burden on Bhutan due to its irresponsible borrowing and spending. He said while the actual development progress on the grounds are significantly limited to mostly unusable farm roads the current deficit of Nu. 8 billion in 2008 increased to 27.9 billion in 2013 and long term debt level increased from 68 billion to 115 billion. In order to determine level of debt the Defendant requested the Honorable Court to summon the debt related records from the Ministry of Finance.
The lawyer said that the DPT government, for dubious reasons, had unilaterally altered the annual royalty rate of Bhutan Lottery from Nu.470 million to Nu.220 million thereby causing an annual income loss of Nu.250 million.
“To enable the court to reconfirm the correctness of the above report of undue immense loss caused by the lottery scam, the Defendant requests Your Honour to kindly summon copy of the Royal Audit Authority’s Report of April 2011 on the cited issue,” said the defendant.
The defense then brought up the BHEL-BVT commission issue and said this had unnecessarily and illegally increased the cost of the Punatsangchu II and Mangdechu projects Nu 240 mn.
Arguing against the need for the Office of the Attorney General to prosecute the case of behalf of DPT the Defendant said that every penal offence cannot be prosecuted by the state at the cost of public resources. The general legal principle being that, as an individual has the right to defend himself against criminal charges, he or she also has the right to prosecute certain crimes committed against him or her. The lawyer talked of various past court judgments including High Court judgments on the issue supporting that view.
The defense lawyer finally said that the present suit of DPT be declared cantankerous litigation under section 371 of the Penal Code and the Plaintiff be held liable for the said punishment and pay to the Defendant commensurate compensation for the undue harassment, immense mental trauma, loss of time and resources in defending the baseless suit.
He also said that the Plaintiff be held liable for undermining the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of the Defendant and be held liable to pay appropriate damages to the Defendant for tarnishing his public image by its wrongful allegations.
Meanwhile the DPT representative Member of Parliament from Drametse-Ngatshang, Ugyen Wangdi said that the issues like sedition, usurpation of royal prerogatives and other charges be dismissed as they did not pertain to the case. He said that the defense should submit its own evidences instead of asking the court to summon them and that the litigation was not cantankerous as it has caused the party real harm. On the 19th July 2013 meeting the MP said that the issues from the meeting had been submitted to His Majesty and was so resolved.
The next hearing where DPT can rebut the defense and also submit any additional evidence is on 23rd April.