Thimphu District Court has convicted three women in connection to Trafficking in Persons on 2 June 2021. The case first surfaced when the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in New Delhi confirmed that three Bhutanese women were rescued by the Mumbai police from a Sri Lankan travel agent for allegedly trying to fly them to Sri Lanka in June 2018.
The three accused, 38-year-old Dawa Dema from Trongsa, 46-year-old Tshering Zangmo from Thimphu and 23-year-old Tandin Wangmo from Trashiyangtse are convicted on different charges.
The accused Dawa Dema was charged for the crime of Trafficking in Persons and was arrested on 26 January 2020. As per the section 155 of the Penal Code of Bhutan (PCB) 2004, the offence of trafficking a person shall be a felony of the fourth degree.
She is convicted for 3 years, however, as per the section 211 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (CCPC) of Bhutan, when a defendant who is sentenced to imprisonment has previously been detained in any prison following his/her arrest for the crime for which such sentence is prescribed. Such periods of detention shall be deducted from the term of his/her sentence.
Therefore, she will now have to serve a prison term for one month and 18 days as she has served 1 year, 4 months and 18 days in detention. The same section of CCPC applies for the other two accused as well.
The second accused Tandin Wangmo is charged with four offences, one charge for Trafficking in Persons, and three charges for attempt to trafficking of a person. The judgment states that she is convicted for 3 years for trafficking of a person and 1 year and six months for attempt to trafficking of a person.
Since she served in detention for 1 year, 3 months and 24 days, therefore, she will now have to serve her term for more than three years in prison. She was arrested on 14 February 2020.
As per the section 198 of CCPC, the court ordered the accused to pay compensation amounting to Nu 3,000 each to all the three involved victims within a month.
The third accused Tshering Zangmo is charged with two offences, one for aiding and abetting and the other for failure to report a crime.
As per the section 125 of PCB 2004, a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of aiding and abetting a crime, if the defendant engages in a conduct designed to accommodate or help another person in the commission of a crime.
Court has convicted her to 1 year and six months to prison for the offence of aiding and abetting. However, she will now have to serve for just 9 months and 19 days in prison as she was kept under detention since 14 February 2020.
For failure to report the crime, court has ordered her to pay Nu 3,750 to the government as the offence is considered as violation.
As per the section 14 of PCB 2004, a defendant convicted of a violation shall be fined the daily minimum national wage rate for a maximum of ninety days.
The judgment states that they have decreased the prison term for all the three accused as per the section 134 (b) of PCB 2004, which states, unless otherwise indicated in this Penal Code, the defendant who is guilty of the offence of criminal attempt, solicitation, or criminal conspiracy shall be liable to half the penalty awarded to the person, who had committed the crime, if the offence is of third degree felony, fourth degree felony, misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor.
The accused can appeal to higher court in 10 days from the day of judgment if they are not satisfied with the judgment passed by a lower court.
Meanwhile, RBP said that the case was charge sheeted to OAG on 1 May 2020. However, OAG have sent back the case to RBP asking RBP to re-investigate the case.
Police said that one of the accused is also involved in another human trafficking case where more than 100 Bhutanese were rescued from Iraq last year. She had sent 44 women to Iraq illegally.
The accused Dawa Dema was involved in a civil case, which is why she absconded to New Delhi but RBP managed to arrest her there.
The Bhutanese has learnt that human trafficking case in Iraq will be charge sheeted to OAG within a few days’ time. RBP said that RBP and DLO have worked hard to get down to this case, and they did not get any support from any of the international agencies.