A proxy issue?

Does the Spasmo Proxyvon Plus legal incognito undermine the Judiciary’s appeal system

l Tashi Wangmo & Usha Drukpa, Thimphu


While the recent issue about SpasmoProxyvon Plus (SP+) and SpasmoProxyvon (SP), wherein, the Supreme Court is criticized for overruling the judgment of the lower courts, it has also shed light on the very function of the courts and the appeal system.

A former Justice, who did not want to be named, said that overruling judgments of the lower courts, shows that Bhutan’s judiciary is not only strong, but also well established. “Overruling a judgment does not mean that the Higher Courts are taking sides. Instead, it shows that the Higher Courts are doing their duties diligently, studying the cases properly and then passing the judgment,” he said. When asked if it means that the lower courts are not doing their duties, he said that human beings are “not machines.” “The number of cases that lower courts handle is huge. Due to this, the possibilities of passing wrong judgments are there. This is the very reason why there is the High Court and the Supreme Court,” he said, adding that if people question “overruling,” there is no need of establishing the appeal system.

A consultant, who conducted a research on justice, said he has met several people across the countries, who do not appeal. “When asked why, people say that there is no use as the lower courts’ verdicts are always upheld. If people know that judgments change, they will appeal and it will help those who may have lost a case, though he or she is right,” he said.

The same was echoed by a private lawyer. “I am not undermining the capabilities and judgments of the lower courts. But there are cases where people who have very good legal representatives win cases even when they are wrong, especially when the opponent is weak,” he said. According to him, courts pass judgments based on what is submitted. “Those with good legal representatives make their cases strong and win. I would say that the appeal system is to ensure that justice is delivered.”

On the other side, he mentioned that people need to be satisfied with the verdicts. “There are people who appeal for satisfaction. And once they understand the appeal system, they go home satisfied, even if they lose their case,” he said.

He also underlined that judgments in the lower courts are issued by one judge. “There is a difference between one person passing verdicts and a group doing the same. For instance, there would be some provisions, which a judge at the lower courts forget or do not think about it. But when there is a group, the chances of missing such provisions is very less,” he said.

The Supreme Court’s verdict was based on the fact that SP+ is not categorized as a controlled substance in the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substance and Substance Abuse (NDPSSA) 2015. SP+ is a generic form of  SpasmoProxyvon (SP), a prescribed drug used to relieve pain.

The main content of SP is dextropropoxyphene, whereas the main content of SP+ is tramadol. However, all other elements in both SP and SP+ are the same, and the two drugs have the same effect on the user.

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