On the 4th of May ‘Penjore Penjore’ put up a post on his Facebook page asking for the resignation of the current Attorney General in relation to a news story.
Two days later Penjore Penjore was arrested by the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) on 6th May and detained based on an official complaint by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
The RBP got a detention order from the Thimphu District Court and has been getting extensions to keep Penjore under detention as part of its defamation investigation.
The result is that Penjore as of Friday has been behind bars for 15 days until in a new development he was given bail later in the day. A RBP official familiar with the case had originally said he would be in for a few more days till the charge sheet is done.
However, in another new development the RBP has sent an investigation report with the charges to the OAG.
While detention is a normal part of RBP’s investigation process, the more than two-week detention of Penjore over a defamation case is unusual.
The RBP official said that the complaint by the OAG was not only for the 4th May Facebook post against the AG but also past posts by Penjore against other institutions.
OAG in its 6th May press release had said that Penjore had made unfounded defamatory posts over the years against public officials and institutions of repute that fulfill judicial, quasi judicial and other functions including the OAG.
The RBP official said that since the complaint was not just for the 4th May post but also other posts, the RBP had to keep extending his detention via the Thimphu District Court so as to investigate all the other posts made by Penjore.
The RBP has also seized Penjore’s phone and was going through it in order to check what posts he has made over the years and also since he would have posted most of his posts using his phone. The RBP official said that it was going through his phone in the forensic lab to check for deleted posts.
The RBP official said his extended detention is also due to the fact that it has other cases (apart from Penjore) which also have to be investigated and charge sheeted and so manpower and time has to be divided between different cases.
The official said that the investigation is for both defamation and libel. Defamation is anything which can be verbal or in pictures while libel is defamation via writing.
The RBP official said that Penjore had been warned once by the High Court before not to post such things.
Earlier the RBP official had said that defamation and libel are petty misdemeanor charges which is normally prosecuted by the RBP, and it is not sure who will prosecute the case as if there are additional charges then the OAG could be prosecuting the case.
However, in again a new development with the investigation report going to the OAG, the OAG will have to prosecute the case.
The RBP official said the charges are still defamation and libel but since he had been warned once the case was sent to the OAG.
When the RBP official was asked about why he was detained for so long the official said that since OAG complaint was not just about the 4th May post but other posts against other institutions then the longer detention period was required to investigate them.
So this makes it clear that Penjore’s longer period of detention was due to the RBP investigation of his other posts against other people and institutions.
However, here a judicial expert said that normally for a defamation case the person or institution that has been defamed should file the complaint and so it is not clear why the RBP investigated Penjore’s other alleged defamatory posts against other people or institutions with no complaints from them.
The Judicial expert said that a court normally grants a detention order if there is a chance for the accused to flee, destroy evidence or influence witnesses during an investigation.
The expert said if it is just the 4th May post then the investigation should have been done soon but Penjore’s detention was extended based on the investigation of other alleged defamatory posts even though there is no complaint from them.
When the RBP official was asked if Penjore’s more than two-week detention is not too harsh or a violation of his rights, then the RBP official said that while Penjore has not committed a direct crime defamation is an indirect crime. He also said the details would be in the charge sheet when the investigation is over.
The Judiciary expert again raised the point that even in the case of the OAG if Penjore had defamed any of them personally then they should file a private case instead of using the state’s resources.
In an earlier article it was already clear that the OAG took this ‘legal action’ without any complaint to it even though it is the legal arm of the government.
The OAG had also not sought the PMO or the government’s permission to take such action, but the Prime Minister had also said that such permission is not needed since OAG is an autonomous institution.