Penjore case is back

Many Bhutanese breathed a sigh of relief when the Thimphu District Court dismissed the sedition case against Penjore in June this year.

Most felt that justice and freedom of speech had won the day.

However, in what can only be called a major lapse in judgment by the OAG and the RBP, the defamation case against Penjore has been revived and is being charge sheeted again by the RBP with the approval of the OAG.

After the Thimphu District Court verdict the OAG and the RBP came in for some scrutiny and some criticism.

In a democracy mature public institutions should know how to accept and swallow criticism, as criticism will always come their way given their dealing with the public.

In the first time around, the OAG made a mistake by taking up the case and prosecuting Penjore and the court threw the case out citing multiple grounds.

The second time around the OAG and the RBP seem to have collaborated to try and exploit a technicality to get Penjore by refiling the same case but with different charges.

The Judiciary will have to take the call on whether it can accept the same case it threw out only because the charges have been modified and  because a different agency is prosecuting it.

The OAG lost its opportunity or rather gave it up when it decided to not appeal the verdict.

In most legal parlance across the world the same person cannot be prosecuted for the same case again, once a court rules one way.

In that sense, the current Penjore case by the OAG and RBP smacks of vindictiveness and vendetta, and while the two agencies may be filing the case hoping for some judicial balm for their injured egos, they may have just touched the hornet’s nest.

After all the controversy, the Penjore case was over and people were forgetting about it and the worst that could have happened was a Parliamentary report on it.

However, now with the case being filed again it will once again inflame public opinion and again put the freedom of speech and by extension the freedom of media to test.

A 2008 High Court Judgment has already laid down the parameters for a defamation case, and the current one by the RBP and OAG should be shown the door.

Wretched are those who are vindictive and spiteful.
Pope Francis

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