The verdict of Bench 1 of the Thimphu district court dismissing the OAG’s sedition case against Penjore outlines four important reasons for the dismissal and each of them are important.
The first point tackles the OAG’s wild swing of the case from a defamation case to that of sedition when the RBP investigation itself did not find any sedition.
The court clearly did not accept a case that was investigated for defamation being arbitrarily changed to a sedition case. This point from the court checks the potential for the misuse of the sedition clause in the future.
In the second reason for dismissal the court takes a very clear stance and points out that while a lot of the charge sheet of the OAG is about the judiciary the judiciary cannot be made party to a case where the institution has not filed any complaint.
This upholds the premise that the OAG cannot go about prosecuting people on behalf of other institutions who have not filed any complaints.
The third reason for dismissal is a powerful one which says that the OAG and the State cannot be treated as being the same.
This justification of the court is a powerful check on the massive powers that the OAG was amassing for itself to take a variety of legal actions on behalf of the state. Reason two and three also do not accept the locus standi of the OAG in this case.
The fourth reason is that any court proceedings in this case would set a bad precedent in the due process of law. This means that the court clearly feels that the due process of law has not been followed by the OAG.
The above four points are a stinging indictment of the OAG and its actions in the Penjore case.
At the same time the Thimphu District Court has also upheld some of the very foundations of our democracy and the state.
It has upheld the right of an ordinary citizen not to be prosecuted without sound basis by the state.
It has upheld the freedom of speech as Penjore’s criticism of the AG cannot be equated to sedition against the state
The court has done its duty of check and balance against a powerful and determined government agency out to do some damage.
The judiciary has also placed clear limitations on the powers of the OAG and by talking of due process of law it has criticized the OAG’s handling of the entire case.
The lesson here is not only for the OAG but it is also for the government which had washed its hands of the case and given the OAG a free hand.
The court’s four reasons should also make the government think deeply about this case, its inability to defend basic rights and its implications on its credibility.
The case also calls for a clearer definition of the accountability of the OAG and its powers.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”