l Tashi Wangmo, Thimphu
“I never received any messages saying that I should report to the court or the police station.”
This is one of the most common arguments used by people who have been asked to report to a court and/or the police station, for reasons concerning justice. While the alleged victims swear that they did not receive the summon letter(s), the Judiciary, Royal Bhutan Police and the Local Government (LG) claim that the persons involved have received the letters. While they fail to report to the court, arrest warrants are issued against the offender.
The Journalist learnt that before issuing arrest warrants, courts in the country uses all alternatives available to summon the accused to the court. Summon orders are send from the gewog to the dzongkhag level, through multiple copies and also uses the media. However, there are instances where the accused(s) knowing that they will be summoned, go undergrowth.
Agencies responsible for bringing the accused to court say that sometimes it is difficult to trace people. “There are many cases wherein the accused have even left the country,” a private legal practitioner said. The arrest warrant is a last resort.
However, several people that The Journalist talked to said that if they have received the letters, some evidence should be there. “If the letters are delivered to us, the ones doing this should at least take our signature as proof that we have received the letters,” a businessman who was detained because he failed to reach the court at the stipulated time said. He said that the Court would have sent the letters, but that it does not reach the intended person. “We suddenly get calls from the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) or they come to our houses with arrest warrants,” he underlined.
He further said that in this age, the courts and other agencies could easily send a message, call or use other applications to send the summon letters. “No one can lie and we will not have to undergo the mental pressure when we are escorted by the RBP to court,” he said.
Few contractors that spoke to The Journalist had similar points. “Sometimes we are in the jungles, where there is no connectivity. No one comes with the letters and we remain ignorant, until the RBP comes,” one of the contractors said.
For people who are living in the gewogs, the letters are sent to the respective gups. Seeking anonymity a gup from Trongsa said that they find the person(s) and hand them over to the RBP. “We later learn that he or she has been granted bail and again we have to go after them, when the bail period is over,” he said.
The mainstream media is another platform used to communicate to the people. However, there are arguments here, too. “Though Kuensel is a national paper, while working at the sites, we do not get it, another businessman said, adding that he cannot stay glued to the television every day, to see if our summons are broadcasted by the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS), he said.
A former media personnel said that in his case the summon letter was given to his opponent. “I was surprised when I heard from others that my opponent had the summon letter. The probabilities of the person lying that he/she contacted me several times is very high,” he said. However, he was luckily in Thimphu and heard from the Court. “My opponent neither showed me the letter nor called me,” he said. He further mentioned that if the person required cannot be located, the message could be sent to his/her next of kin. “They will be the perfect messengers,” he said.
All the respondents said that a night in the detention cell pricks their self-esteem. “And I cannot understand why. May be it is a coincidence, but the RBP officials come mainly on Friday. As Saturday and Sundays are holidays, we land up spending about three nights in detention,” a contractor based in Trashigang said.
While law enforcement agencies say that messages are conveyed, those accused say agencies should either use technology or convey the messages to their family or close relatives. “Even if we do not answer the calls, if a message is left, we will see it later and then the agencies will have the right to say that we were informed,” he added.