Family of deceased in electric pole case not happy with how their case was handled by all sides

The husband and relatives of the 58-year-old lady who recently died after a streetlight pole collapsed and hit her on the head on 18 April 2021 at Changjiji colony in Thimphu, are not happy with how the whole case was dealt with.

Dorji Phuntsho, the 67-year-old husband of the deceased, said their lives were impacted after the incident and made worse after the relevant agencies prolonged the investigation and the process.

The family said there is still no concrete conclusion to the case.

The deceased passed away on the eve of the new year and so far, no compensation was provided to the deceased or her family.

Before the incident, they said she was a strong woman earning by weaving for the family, but things changed after the incident as she turned into a disabled person.

Her husband had to keep his small cloth shop closed across the river at Sabzi Bazar just to take care of her. They had four children whereby the youngest could not continue her education after class X due to a financial crisis at home. She could have pursued her education if not for the incident.

Life has changed as they now barely have money to pay their rent. To perform rituals for his wife’s well being (while she was alive), the husband borrowed around Nu 600,000 from his relatives and he also sold his car at Nu 290, 000 to meet their monthly expenses.

The husband and the daughter had to be there at all times to help the deceased including changing her diapers and doing all the house chores. This is why he had to keep his shop closed for this long.

Dorji shared that he could have saved his wife if the case was investigated at the earliest and if they were paid compensation before it was too late. They never knew that it would take this long to get justice, he added.

“I could have done better in taking care of my late wife if I had enough money to take her for treatment outside. I did my best with whatever I have, performing rituals and taking her to hospital. I had hope that she would get better with time, but her health condition instead deteriorated with each passing day,” he added.

Dorji said that a few days before his wife’s death her health condition worsened whereby they rushed her to the hospital. The hospital told them that they have to perform another surgery which they did not want, but he said that they had to agree as the hospital did not want to take any risk.

He further said that his late wife did not want surgery and she was able to talk when she was taken to the Operation Theater, but once she was brought out of the OT she was brought senseless, and she was just breathing. She was then taken to ICU and she then never woke up.

“I requested the hospital about us not wanting the surgery. I wanted my late wife to live until the end talking to us and seeing us, but I regret to say that I failed to save her. I am not blaming the hospital, but I felt that she succumbed to the surgery,” Dorji added.

The first surgery was performed only few days after her admission in hospital due to other health complication.

The paper has contacted JDWNRH and they have shared that they have not received any formal complaint on this matter. If they receive any compliant than they would look into the matter, they added.

Dorji shared that though the police forwarded the case to the OAG for prosecution, after the investigation, there is no concrete conclusion to the case as of now and they are not sure why it is taking so long.

“I was called in the court and in my submission I have submitted on who was accountable and who to hold liable. I have trusted all the institutions thinking that we will get justice at the earliest. I have approached the institutions with a hope, but I was told that since this case is the first of its kind in the country, they would take time as there is no concrete law for this,” he added.

Dorji said that they said it would take time, but he never knew it would take this long compromising his wife’s life, he said, adding that had if it had been a ‘high level person’ justice could have prevailed long ago. He questioned if there are different laws for different people in the country.

He went a few times for a follow-up but he said it was saddening as they could not explain to him on why the prosecution was being delayed. He requested for sooner justice and few days before the death of his wife, he received a call from OAG saying that NHDCL will be compensating the deceased with Nu 500, 000 to meet the medical and other expenses.

However, he said, “I did not go that day to collect the amount as my wife was undergoing surgery. I went the next day and they just paid me Nu 250, 000 and when I asked why only 50 percent was paid, the year closing was given reason. The same day my wife passed away.”

It would have been life saving if that money was given at the earliest, he said, adding that he is disappointed on how the case was not taken seriously by the relevant agencies.

“No death will wait for law, but law could have acted better before the death of a person. I am not happy with how my late wife’s case was handled. If we treated her better on time then she might be with us today,” he added.

Meanwhile, an official from the OAG said, “We occasionally paid a visit to the victim, and when I did, I discovered that their living condition had altered; they were experiencing financial difficulties as a result of having to pay for rituals and medical expenditures.”

They asked the court to look into the matter and assess the condition of the victim.

Weaving was victim’s source of income, he said, adding that she used to earn Nu 80, 000 per Kira in four months taking her total income to Nu 240,000 in one year.

He further said that the court summoned the husband and urged that he speak to the court about the difficulties and concerns.

“Knowing the condition of the victim, we proceeded to court with the representatives of NHDCL and OAG.  The court issued the order whereby the NHDCL agreed to compensate the victim with some amount to help them out for the foreseeable future,” he added.

The court ordered that Nu 500,000 be handed to the victim, but NHDCL claimed that they only had Nu 250,000 due to year closing which the court said was acceptable, he said, adding that the money isn’t meant to compensate them; rather, it’s meant to alleviate their difficulty for the time being. The other half-payment will be made by January and February. “We don’t know what the court’s ruling on compensation will be since it might alter or stay the same,” he said.

The paper has contacted NHDCL but they refused to comment. An official from BPC said that the pole belongs to NHDCL. Likewise, Thimphu Thromde also stated that they have no role to play because the pole is owned by NHDCL.

The Babesa Police registered a case against the National Housing Development Corporation Ltd (NHDCL) and forwarded the case to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in May. On September 8, the OAG charged the NHDCL for criminal nuisance and sought Nu 4.23 million in compensation.

The Thimphu court has conducted five hearings of the case till date and the next hearing will take place on 17 January 2022 where the NHDCL will give their rebuttal.

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