Person alleges battery by five traffic constables led to two fractured ribs

Thimphu police is investigating a case where five traffic personnel (constables) are being accused of battering a 41-year-old man on 13 February. Though the initial incident took place on the night of 13th February 2021 on the second day of Losar, the alleged victim lodged a formal complaint on 8th March after an X-Ray report showed two of his ribs had been fractured.

41-year-old Namgay Dorji said that he was battered by a group of traffic constables who were on duty at night on 13th February.

He said, “I did not want to make an issue out of this, but the pain I am enduring and the treatment I got from the police each time I visited them, is unacceptable. I would have considered if all the five constables were called along with me in the office and things sorted out. But that was not the case, I was called alone and they denied battering me.”

He said he lodged the complaint for justice, especially when such a crime committed by the police is being hidden. He added that he has given a statement stating the incident and the injuries he has received from the battering but no action has been taken.

On 13th February, he had gone to Semtokha to play archery, whereby the incident took place while returning home alone.

“I accept that I drank that night as it was a Losar. Traffic police supposedly stopped me near Norling building, which I did not see as I was quite high on alcohol. The traffic (police) stopped me just above Hotel Taj, where they claimed that I did not stop my car upon their instruction. I had explained about my drinking and of not seeing them,” he added.

After a while, four traffic police arrived at the scene and started questioning him. He said he was asked to submit his vehicle documents and a ticket was issued for drunk driving. He added that there was a small argument between them after which they started alleging him of a hit-and-run case as his car had a small scratch mark.

Namgay Dorji said that the scratch on his car was from the past when he had scratched against a tree while parking his car during an archery game. He admitted that he was frustrated and might have reacted angrily to being filmed and so the traffic police asked him to come to their office.

He said, “I refused to go to their office as I did not commit any crime, and moreover, I have handed over all my documents to them. A tussle broke out, and in the process, they started handcuffing me. I moved but they already handcuffed my left hand. I again tried to move and that is when they started battering me. I remember a woman constable punching me hard on my right rib area.”  

He was then taken to traffic division office, and he accepts to having used vulgar words out of anger.

Namgay Dorji’s wife was called to see him in the traffic division office. Although he had requested her or her friend to take photos of the injuries on his body and face, however, they could not take any photos out of fear. He was then escorted to hospital for a COVID-19 test, and there he had requested the police on duty to allow him to do a medical examination, but his request was denied.

“Out of pain, I again requested for a medical check-up and they again denied it. I was then detained the same night in the center box. I was released the next day towards the evening. When I got my phone, they had deleted a video clip that I had recorded when they had alleged me of the hit-and-run case. They also took my wife’s and her friend’s phones as well, and I suppose they took it to see if they have taken my picture,” he said.

Again on 14 February, he was caught for drunk driving. He paid Nu 5,500 in total as penalty for those two incidents.

According to Namgay Dorji, he was called to the traffic office on 15 February, but he was unable to go due to a mild pain in his right rib area from the incident. However, he went to the traffic division office on 16 February and told a senior officer about the battering he got. The senior traffic police official had told him that they would get back to him after checking the CCTV footage in the area, but he never got a call.

He said, “My pain in the rib area started getting intense with time, though the injuries on my cheek, leg and chin are now healed. On 3 March, I went to hospital, and there I lied to the doctor saying I had a fight with a friend because I feared that I will not get an honest medical report if I happened to say that the police have beaten me up.”

To his surprise, the X-ray report showed factures on the 7th and 8th posture ribs, and he was advised to take physiotherapy and to refrain from playing archery.

With the unfair treatment from the police, and with chances of future health issues, he decided to file a case against the five constables, he said.

“I was later told that though CCTV footage showed their constables checking my car around, and there is no footage of them battering me. I have committed a few traffic offences in the past that they are now bringing up, and they are threatening me. They also talked about compensating me, but this is unfair from their side,” he said.

The five constables have denied the allegation. 

Meanwhile, an official from Thimphu police station said that they have taken up the case for investigation. He said that the incident took place a long time back, and the report is being lodged only four days ago. An assault case has to reported immediately, he added.

A police official on the condition of anonymity said, “Our men stopped him in three locations but he did not stop, and finally he was stopped near Zeeling (shop), above Hotel Taj (Tashi).”

During the questioning, he started acting wild and abusive because of which he was handcuffed and taken to the traffic office, he said.

The official also said many people were on the move during the time the alleged beating was happening near the Zeeling (shop).

“No matter how abusive he was, our people were tolerant,” he said. “On 14th February he went to play archery, whereby if his ribs were fractured, as he claims today, he won’t have been able to play archery, he added.

“Only on 3rd March, he went to the hospital, and he is now coming with a medical report. When he went to hospital, he told the doctor that he fought with his friend. He is a habitual drinker, and there is every chance of him falling down. However, we will investigate the case. For now, the alleged constables denied having battered him,” he added.

Namgay said that he was in constant pain in his rib area after the battering and he felt pain while breathing and he could not lie down on his left side. He said he hoped the pain would go away on its own since there was no outer bruise but it refused to subside which is why he went to the hospital and found the fracture.

Namgay said he approached the police several times to register a case but they kept sending him back and forth and it was only on Friday that his case was registered.

Namgay said an eye witness to his injuries is not only his wife but also his flat-mate and friend and Bhutanese comedian Phurba Thinley and his daughter. He said it was his wife and Phurba Thinley’s daughter who saw his injuries in the traffic police office first.

He also asked if the traffic police are allowed to take his phone and delete video evidence from it without his consent.

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