High Court’s Bench three today heard two cases, involving three individuals, of alleged embezzlement of funds for the DeSuung training programme in the Tenchholing Military Training Centre. The individuals have appealed against the military court’s judgment.
Sources said that the military court in Lungtenphu found 15 army officers (ranked between lieutenant and Lieutenant Colonels), nine Non-Commissioned Officers and 16 shopkeepers guilty of various charges including embezzlement, aiding and abiding, and solicitation.
High Court officials confirmed that after a miscellaneous hearing by the Acting Chief Justice of the High Court, 15 cases have been lodged with the court for which the court held the show cause hearing on December 29 last year.
However, as the appellants have not submitted any clear reasons in their appeal letters to the High Court, the court asked the defendants to submit their reasons in the next hearing.
Each of the three benches of the court has five cases. Bench one held two hearings on January 15, another two on January 16 and will hear one on January 24. Bench two will hear the cases on January 24 and 25. Bench three heard two cases yesterday and is expected to hear others on January 22 and 23.
One of the accused, Lt Colonel Ugyen Norbu submitted to the court that there was no standard operating procedure (SOP) which is why the whole problem of mismanagement arose.
He claimed that as a legal representative, he was asked to lead an inquiry into a fire incident on campus during which he realized there was no SOP for procurement and the mess.
“I raised the need for an SOP and the Commandant asked me to draft one but later when it was done, it was not implemented despite repeated requests,” Ugyen Norbu said. He said that he had prepared the draft with Major Kuenga Norbu, who is also defendant in the case.
The military court also did not conduct the closing hearing and cross-examination of the witnesses or their superiors, he said.
He claimed that when he was appointed the administrative officer of the 19th batch of the programme, he proposed that those who were managing and working in the mess and procurement since 2011 need to be replaced immediately to create a better system. The suggestion, he told the court, was ignored.
Ugyen Norbu asked the court to summon his superiors for cross-examination on these issues.
Ugyen Norbu, broke down in tears as he narrated how his superiors have allegedly mistreated him. “During the trial, I lost both my parents.” He said that he could not attend the 14th day ritual of his late mother as he was summoned to the military court, despite requests.
“I had admitted to what adjustments I had asked to do but there are other charges against me that I didn’t commit,” he submitted to the court.
Another officer, Cigay Tshewang, submitted that the military court could not establish the facts beyond reasonable doubt.
“The military court had pronounced such a harsh judgment as if we have committed the offenses intentionally,” he said.
He said that the court only considered the statements that the accused and others submitted to the Anti-Corruption Commission, which he said were collected under duress.
“The court did not consider any of the statements from us, witnesses, and the business firms,” he said.
An NCO (Pelpon) Nima Tshering said that, while the court gave them the opportunity to avail of the services of a jabmi, it restricted to only jabmis from the military and not civilian attorneys.
“We were doing our duty, only following orders of the superiors, and didn’t do anything on my own,” Nima Tshering said.
The prosecutors from the armed forces will make their submissions to the court on February 26.