In 2018, Office of Attorney General (OAG) received a total of 954 cases for prosecution. However, the office has seen a decrease by 364 cases as recorded from the previous year. They have received 74 cases from Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) ( 23 cases but each case report comprises many cases), 870 cases from RBP and 10 cases from other agencies (through 7 case reports).
The Annual Report 2018 states that of the total of 74 cases received in 2018 from ACC, 47 cases are under review, 24 cases are at trial proceedings, 2 cases were returned to ACC for further investigation, and 1 case was dropped from prosecution.
The case returned pertains to non-availability of crucial evidences or credible evidences and thus ACC is asked to furnish such evidence or information, and the case that was dropped pertains to non-availability of key defendants/ suspects as they could not be apprehended for prosecution before the court.
The cases referral from ACC remained constant with 23 case reports for both 2017 and 2018.
Omission amounting to Abuse of Function offence constituted maximum with 14 cases followed by Embezzlement of Fund and Securities in Corporate-Sector with 12 cases.
10 cases were received from Ministries and other Agencies for prosecution in 2018. Six cases pertain to an offence for Smuggling of Sandalwood, two cases pertain to Indian nationals operating restaurants in Bhutan illegally, one pertains to election offence under the Election Act, and one case relates to Dratshang Lhengtshog.
When it comes to case referral from RBP, OAG received 870 cases of which 296 cases have been tried before the court with judgment rendered, 45 cases were returned for lack of evidence, 9 cases were referred for diversion, 14 cases were dropped, and the majority of the cases coming to 506 cases are under trial.
Thimphu contributed the highest number of cases with 326 cases followed by Chukha at 154 cases and then Paro with 82 cases.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Shera Lhendup said that the Justice Sector Strategic Plan (2018-2023) was launched with the vision ‘free, fair, just and harmonious society’ and the mission ‘to provide accessible, inclusive, accountable, responsive, and quality services to promote trust and confidence in the justice sector’.
The work was initiated by the OAG in 2016 and the Plan was the output of the core team members representing five key Justice Institutions in the country; the Judiciary, Anti-Corruption Commission, Royal Bhutan Police, Bhutan National Legal Institute and the Office of the Attorney General (in collaboration with the UNDP and the Austrian Development Cooperation).
The implementation of the Plan’s identified activities aspires to enhance leadership and collaborative connectivity amongst the stakeholders to provide more responsive, efficient, accountable and accessible services.
The in-house human resource capacity has been significantly strengthened in the areas of prosecutorial services, their analytical skills, art of articulation and effective writing skills, and professional drafting of laws and other legal instruments.
Various workshops and trainings, including induction courses and policy formulation for drafting new Bills, have been designed and conducted for the new recruits. Dissemination programs were carried out in schools, remote Gewogs, and villages with objective to prevent crimes and to ensure compliance to the law, he added.
Moreover, he said, “Trainings on Child Justice have been special focus of the OAG in keeping with the mandates under special laws and importance. Unlike in the past, the dissemination programs were carried out with socially relevant based theme for targeted activities like ‘drugs and its adverse consequences’, ‘child justice’, ‘gender and domestic violence’, and other emerging issues of public interest”. In addition, “The restitution (of proceeds of crime or damages) sought by the office has exponentially increased as the current year records a total recovery of Nu. 45.77 mn,” he added.
He said, “We have noted 50 percent reduction in cases involving Child in Conflict with Laws compared to 2017. Through our diversion programs, we avoid minors having to undergo formal prosecution proceedings to promote best interest of the child”.
OAG is currently reviewing the Diversion Guidelines and Child Prosecution Guidelines in collaboration with UNICEF and Save the Children.