Why the High Court convicted Khandu Wangmo to 21 years for sedition

Thimphu High Court Criminal Bench I convicted Khandu Wangmo to 21 years in prison for her involvement in the sedition case. She has been charged for three counts of sedition. Khandu Wangmo drafted three seditious letters and distributed them to frame her ex-husband Drangpon Yeshey Dorji and his family.

The District Court initially convicted her to 5 years in prison for the sedition case on 1 September 2021, however, the Office of Attorney General (OAG) had appealed to the High Court, stating that the sentencing should have been at least 15 to 27 years, as she was proven guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, on all the three counts.

The judgment states that the confession of the defendants was taken into consideration as per section 84 and 85 of the Evidence Act of Bhutan 2005. Section 84 states that any statement, which is made at any time by a person charged with a crime stating or suggesting that the person committed the crime, shall be the confession of the person.

Likewise, section 85 lays down the grounds for a valid confession.

Khandu Wangmo was found guilty of all the three charges, which is why, the court has charged her under section 331 (e) of the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004. The section states, a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of sedition, if the defendant issues a scurrilous and malignant statement against His Majesty or the Royal Government with the intent to defame, disrupt, encourage contempt, or incite hatred of the people against Bhutan.

The judgment also states that the grading of sedition shall be felony of the third degree (5 to 9 years of imprisonment) as per section 332 of the same act.

The court has charged Khandu Wangmo to 7 years in prison for each count taking it to 21 years in total for the three counts of sedition.

Khandu Wangmo had involved seven people in the sedition case, and the three people among the seven were involved in distributing the seditious documents.

The seditious documents were distributed to Yeshey Dorji’s sister’s office in the Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA), to Yeshey Dorji’s residence at Changjiji and in a car belonging to Yeshey Dorji’s former brother-in-law at Babesa.

It all started with an acrimonious and bitter divorce between Khandu Wangmo and Pemagatshel Drangpon Yeshey Dorji in October 2018. They had been married for 11 turbulent months. The reason of the divorce was said to be that the Drangpon had lent Nu 8 million to Khandu Wangmo by taking a loan via RICBL, to enable her to repay RBG Brigadier Thinley Tobgay, which the Drangpon was not getting back, and there were also other issues in their marriage.

Meanwhile, Khandu Wangmo is convicted to 9 years in prison in connection to a criminal conspiracy case by Thimphu District Court. However, she has appealed to High Court, and if the High Court upholds the District Court’s judgment, then she will have to serve 30 years in prison. High Court is yet to pass the judgment on the criminal conspiracy case.

A defendant can appeal to higher court in 10 days from the date of judgment.

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