With the High Court convicting the Member of Parliament (MP) Rinzin Dorji in the DCM case, he now stands to lose his position as a MP if he does not appeal within the next 10 days or if the Supreme Court upholds the High Court verdict.
This is because the National Assembly (NA) Act 2008 under section 14(c) says, “A member of the National Assembly shall be disqualified if the member: is convicted for any criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment.”
However, stronger than the NA Act is the Constitution which under Article 23 titled Elections lays out how a sitting member of an elective office can be disqualified.
Article 23 section 4(c) says “A person shall be disqualified as a candidate or a member holding an elective office under this Constitution, if the person is convicted for any criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment.”
A legal expert the reporter talked to said that the Constitution is very clear and the particular section applies to not only candidates but also sitting MPs. The legal expert said it was the MPs themselves who passed the Constitution in 2008 which had this clause.
In fact, the Supreme Court, in a recent judgment, disqualified the Kawang Gup from his elected office after getting convicted in a case, based also on this Constitutional clause.
The Gyelpozhing case verdict of the Supreme Court also ensured that the former Home Minister and Speaker could not contest in the 2013 elections as they were convicted in the case. A DPT candidate’s papers were also not accepted by the returning officer as he had been convicted in a case before.
There are also questions to if MP Rinzin Dorji will be suspended while he appeals the case to the Supreme Court.
Two legal experts the reporter talked to said that the Gyelpozhing verdict of the Supreme Court had given certain directives on the matter which said that once public servants are criminally convicted at any level of the judiciary they can be suspended.
The MP was safe so far given that he was not convicted by the Haa Court but now with a conviction from the High Court he could be suspended. However, on the other hand there are no clear procedures outlined on the issue by either the ACC or the National Assembly and so any action would set a precedent.
The High court on Thursday sentenced the former Foreign Minister Rinzin Dorji to one year compoundable imprisonment in addition to restitution of Nu 111,640 for misuse of DCM.
The conviction is a problem for the former minister as the one year imprisonment has been charged as misdemeanor making it a criminal conviction.
The High Court applied section 53.1 (a) of the ACC Act titled Embezzlement of Property by Public Servant which says, “A public servant who has been entrusted to take care, keep custody, or under control of any property or any other thing of value, directly or indirectly; Willfully uses those property or any other thing of a value for a purpose other than that for which intended or legally required to be used.”
In place of a one year imprisonment the MP can pay Nu 45,000 as thrimthue. The MP has also been asked to pay Nu 111,640 for the misuse of the DCM. This was calculated for Nu 1,000 fine each time he used the vehicle and an additional fine of three times the mileage.
The High Court in its judgment declined to accept the argument of the defense lawyer that the use of the DCM was done as an emergency under the Ministry of Finance Circular. The High Court itself defined emergency as being one that concerns the life, health, pressing aid and rescue of people.
The MP will have 10 days to appeal to the Supreme Court failing which he will lose his MP post.
The Haa district court had exonerated the MP in the Lhakhang Karpo case and in the case of the DCM had only asked for a Nu 4,166 amount to be paid by the MP.