19 girls had come forward and lodged complaints against the accused lecturers and staff
A College survey had shown majority of respondents saying there are illicit relationships
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has returned the cases of sexual offences, criminal attempt to rape, custodial rape and official misconduct against the six accused of the College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS) to Trongsa police on 9 July 2019.
Of the six accused, the charges against the three accused has been dropped by the OAG while the charges against the other three have been downgraded to sexual harassment.
The OAG returned the case to be prosecuted by RBP as per section 71 of the RBP Act 2009 which states that RBP shall have the power to prosecute any person for any criminal offences other than a misdemeanor and above. The offence of sexual harassment is graded a petty misdemeanor which is one month to one year for which Thrimthue can be paid.
The administration of the CLCS officially lodged a complaint to Trongsa police against the nine lecturers and one supporting staff on 17 May 2019. They were also made to compulsorily retire from the college.
However, during the course of investigation, the name of another two serving lecturers were brought in stating that they got married to two students of the college. In total, the number of the accused was 12 people.
Of the 12 accused, police charged only 6 lecturers (four former lecturers and two serving lecturers) and the case was initially forwarded to OAG by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) team of RBP on 27 June 2019. The rest six were found innocent.
As per the OAG, they dropped the case of a 36-year-old accused who is from Sarpang. He was one of the lecturers who got married to one of his students, but they got married only after her graduation. OAG said that upon diligent review of the facts and evidences of the case, it undoubtedly exhibited absence of any act of sexual harassment.
Moreover, OAG said the statement from the accused and his wife did not indicate the existence of any culpable intend to commit an offence of sexual harassment as they have been legally married. In addition, OAG said that to constitute an offence of official misconduct, a defendant has to commit an act relating to the office constituting unauthorized exercise of his official functions.
“The mere fact of the accused being married with a consenting major girl does not fulfill the requirement under section 316 (A) of the penal code to initiate prosecution,” OAG added.
Similarly, a 33-year-old accused who is from Khomshar, Zhemgang was initially charged for sexual harassment and official misconduct. The accused got married to one of his students. However, OAG dropped the case against him stating that he was legally married to his wife long before she became a student of the college and they have a child.
OAG also said that any act or behavior which ‘may or may not be welcoming’ doesn’t establish any criminal culpability nor can it be a ground of prosecution. “Further, there is no indication of any act or omission relating to unauthorized exercise of his official function,” OAG said.
RBP recommended 56-year-old accused who is from Bayling, Trashiyangtse to be prosecuted for sexual harassment and official misconduct, however OAG said that the mere fact of transferring money, recharging data and texting does not establish presence of any unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal abuse of sexual nature as required by section 205.
In addition, the OAG said the available evidences could not establish the offence of official misconduct. OAG said, “However, it does not prevent the police from charging the defendant for sexual harassment if the police uncover any new evidences.”
On the other hand, OAG has determined prosecution for sexual harassment against three accused. OAG said that they found no sustainable basis to prosecute a 30-year-old accused from Paro for the offence of criminal attempt to commit custodial rape.
However, “The accused had committed the offence of sexual harassment on different occasions which merits persecution,” OAG added.
In case of 32-year-old accused (assistant lecturer) from Gyensar, Wangduephodrang, it was learnt that the accused had committed unwelcome acts of sexual nature through pinching of girl’s armpit and by indirectly touching them on the breasts, placing them under emotional and mental distress.
The office also learnt that the accused has forcefully kissed a girl with doma in his mouth which is an unwelcome act of sexual nature.
Likewise, a 32-year-old accused from Changneykha, Chukha was prosecuted for sexual harassment as two girls have testified that the accused touched their back and thigh at the football ground while they were watching football.
However, OAG said that the charges of official misconduct has been dropped from all the three accused as the act of the accused are in-refutably not related to unauthorized exercise of his official function as required by section 316 (A) of the Penal code.
Meanwhile, the five former lecturers and one supporting staff, who the police did not charge for any charges includes a 29-year-old from Gungdu, Mongar, a 32-year-old from Chargari, Samtse, a 27-year-old from Chapcha, Chukha, a 34-year-old from Langthil, Trongsa, a 26-year-old from Yurung, Pemagatshel and a 30-year-old from Jarey, Lhuentse.
Police said that they could not ascertain any evidences beyond a reasonable doubt to charge the six of them which is why they did not forward them to the OAG for prosecution.
Police said that they will further study the case as per the charges determined by OAG and then submit before the court of law.
Lungtaen Gyatso, CLCS College President had said that the incident came to light when some of the students came to him with a rumor of illicit relationship between students and lecturers in the college.
The College then conducted a mass survey with a designed questionnaire involving all the students. The questions include if there are any illicit relationships in the college. Majority of the students claimed that there are illicit relationships in the college. Thereby the college started investigating the case further.
Upon investigation, the President said that some victims came forward, but with compliants of sexual harassment.
The sexual harassment came in a different forms and in this case, it was with regard to the inappropriate body touching and sending of unethical messages in social media (WeChat) with some even inviting the victims into an illicit relationship.
At the time 19 girls had come forward and lodged complaints against the 9 alleged lecturers and one supporting staff.
The Principal had said that they got enough evidences of sexual harassment that is directly in contravention of the teacher’s code of conduct.
The Penal Code of Bhutan states, “a defendant shall be guilty of sexual harassment, if the defendant makes unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal abuse of sexual nature.”
The Civil Service Act of Bhutan 2010 (Code of Conduct of a Civil Servant) clearly underlines that “a civil servant shall not engage in sexual harassment” and sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature that affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.”