This paper as a follow up to its story last week on the Supreme Court giving two verdicts and not implementing its own verdict sent four questions to the Court.
The first question asked for a definite date by when the case will be solved. The second question asked if it is common for the Supreme Court to keep the case for this long. The third question was any update on the case and the final question asked the Supreme Court why it issued two verdicts.
The Supreme Court late Friday evening instead of answering the questions in order, put up a ‘Rejoinder’ on its facebook page and sent a copy to the paper which is being published in full here but we are also giving Changlo a chance to reply as his name is all over the Rejoinder.
The Rejoinder said, “The Bhutanese newspaper, on 23.09.2023 contained insinuating references about the judiciary in an article about an enforcement case between Gyeltshen versus Sangay Lhamo represented by her husband Changlo. The enforcement is currently pending before Khading Bench of the Supreme Court.”
“The review or the subsequent judgement by the Supreme Court rectifying the previous judgement was delivered in line with Article 21 (7) of the Constitution, not to favor or target anyone.”
Article 21 (7) says ‘The Supreme Court of Bhutan, which shall comprise of the Chief Justice and four Drangpons, shall be the highest appellate authority to entertain appeals against the judgments, orders or decisions of the High Court in all matters and shall have the power to review its judgments and orders.’
Till date in most if not all cases appealed to the Supreme Court it rarely if at all grants such a review. In the past the Supreme court has turned down requests to review its judgment by several appellants saying the verdict is final and binding.
Here, Changlo said even if the Supreme Court wanted to issue a second verdict why was he not consulted and called to give his views and points. He said the Supreme Court only heard the Lam’s appeal to the Chief justice after the first verdict and then granted the second verdict.
The Rejoinder says, “The Supreme Court upon review found that Lam Gyeltshen too was victimized due to manipulation by Changlo involved in many such transactions. His claim of being a mere ‘farmer’ is misleading.”
In reply to this Changlo said that he did not fight the court case in a foreign country but within the Bhutanese judicial system starting from the Paro Dzongkhag Court, to the High Court, to the full Bench of the High Court and the Supreme Court and it was these courts who gave the verdicts in his favour based on the facts and evidence.
He said its is now shocking to hear from the Supreme Court that he is being accused of victimizing and manipulating the Lam contradicting the verdicts of all the courts till date.
He said if he really manipulated the Lam then why did all the courts including the Supreme Court issue verdicts in his favour. He said the court must now answer this.
On the charge of the Supreme Court saying he is not a farmer he said that in the past he has been a village Tshogpa and he still works as a farmer and he does not have any other job and so he fails to see why the Supreme Court does not think he is a farmer.
Changlo said there is no way he can fool Lam Gyeltshen as the Lam was a former Sungkhop and is highly educated with lots of experience. He said the Lam is also experienced in worldly matters as he has a wife and child and various properties and he has well established relatives too.
“The Lam is not some underage person, mentally unfit or a young drug addict for me to manipulate him. I was the one fooled as he first said he wants to sell the ground floor of his building and then backed out after taking my money,” said Changlo.
The Rejoinder says, “Lam Gyeltshen, an ex-monk, is also wrongly referred in the article as a powerful member of Dratshang.”
Here the Supreme Court has got it wrong as the paper had said, “The former Lam Gyeltshen who held an influential position while in office under the Zhung Dratshang…”
The paper clearly referred to the Lam as a former Lam and also alluded to his position in the Zhung Dratshang being one he held before retirement.
Changlo said that the former Lam did hold an influential position as he was a very powerful Sungkhop while in office.
The Supreme Court then says, “The court had to review its judgement, particularly since there was an error in interest calculation, which Changlo had misled. Lam Gyeltshen was duped and resulted in obligation of Nu. 5.8 million on Nu 3.7 within a short period of time. The agreement between them appeared peculiar as Changlo had inserted interest provision in the flat sale deed and filed case again Lam Gyeltshen within 3 months from execution of the sale deed. The Supreme Court passed a final judgement for Nu 4.85 million, which was more than the actual amount due.”
Changlo here said the Supreme Court finds its peculiar he inserted the interest provision but he said it was only to protect him in case the Lam takes the money and does not transfer the house which is exactly what happened.
He also said that he did not mention any interest amount but left it to the court to decide it at the government rate, and it was the courts who decided the interest applicable.
Changlo said the Supreme Court itself calculated the interest applicable as per the government rate in the first verdict on 27 April 2022 and said it would apply from the date of the Genja to the closing of the case in the Supreme Court which came to Nu 5.8 million.
He said then as explained in the second verdict the Lam then approached the Chief Justice two months after the first verdict on 22nd June 2022 and it was after that the Supreme Court issued a second verdict four months after the first verdict on 25 August 2022. This second verdict only said that the interest rate would apply the date of the Genja to the High Court and arbitrarily reduced the amount to Nu 4.8 mn.
On the part about the Lam being duped Changlo said the Lam was represented by a qualified legal professional who fought the case for him from the District Court to the Supreme Court.
On the other hand, Changlo said all his written submissions to the court had to be made by others and he is not conversant with the laws but the only thing he had going for him was the Genja.
Changlo said the only time the Lam stepped into the Supreme Court was to appeal to the Chief Justice against the verdict and after that a second verdict was issued.
The Rejoinder then says, “Lam Gyeltshen, despite delaying payments has paid a significant portion of his liability although facing economic challenges.”
Here Changlo said the Supreme Court’s assertions that the Lam was facing economic challenges is not true as he owns a five storey building in Motithang collecting rent, has land in Semtokha and house and land in Paro.
The Rejoinder says, “An immediate arrest warrant was not issued since Lam Gyeltshen had paid more than 62% of the total amount on two occasions and he is making all possible efforts to pay the last instalment by disposing off his land despite slump in the real estate business and also in the meantime, Lam had health issues.”
Changlo said that as far as he knows in the 20 Dzongkhags in Bhutan whenever anyone fails to pay the full amount they are arrested by the courts. He said there are several people behind bars on this count but he is now finding out for the first time that you can pay a part of the owed amount and get away.
Changlo had earlier said that he was never consulted when extensions were given to the Lam. In normal judicial practice followed in courts around the country if a person cannot pay the full amount he or she will be locked up unless the person who is to receive the money agrees to give an extension.
Here Changlo said if this is the stance of the Supreme Court then why did its verdict say that the Lam would face legal consequences for not paying the full amount and why did the same court issue two letters to the Lam warning him of legal consequences of he does not pay the remaining amount with fixed dates.
On the issue of the real estate market and health problems Changlo said a verdict once passed is final and binding and here are no ups and downs or excuses. He said the Supreme Court instead of making excuses for the Lam fails to appreciate that it has been a year since its own verdict and he is yet to get back the full amount.
Changlo said that the at the end of the day he never heard about the Supreme Court issuing two verdicts in one case and that too after only hearing the Lam and not even consulting him or hearing his side. He asked how the Supreme Court can demolish its own verdict signed by the Chief Justice and all other Justices after 4 months.
He said the issue is that even though the second verdict is issued by the Supreme Court the Supreme Court itself is not following its own verdict.
Changlo said given that he is not even getting the remainder of the money as per the second verdict the Supreme should declare that it cannot implement its own changed verdict and then advise him which other court he can go to in Bhutan to get justice and his money.
The Rejoinder says, “It is unfortunate that few blame judiciary and Dratshang for ‘causing miscarriage of justice’, whereas the above facts reveal different motive and attempt of less than fair means.”
The Supreme Court is again wrong here as neither Changlo nor the paper ever blamed the Dratshang for ‘causing miscarriage of justice.’
Importantly, the Supreme Court failed to answer the paper’s questions on the definite date by when the case will be solved and if it is common for the Supreme Court to keep a case pending for this long.