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High Court dismisses Wangdue NC election case

The larger bench of the High Court yesterday dismissed the National Council election dispute case that one of the candidates, Passang Thrinlee, from Wangdue filed on April 30. 

A candidate, Passang Thrinlee, who had contested the recent National Council elections from Wangdue, moved the High Court to investigate four counts of alleged corrupt practices during the election. 

Passang Thrinlee alleged that Gase Tshogom gup Kinley Gyeltshen, who was the uncle of incumbent NC member Tashi Dorji’s wife, had violated the rules by staying at the polling station that was set up in the gewog centre, the whole day until the counting of the votes was complete. 

He presented statements from seven persons to the court but the court ruled that the statements should have been submitted along with petition. The statements would not be considered, as they were not submitted to a relevant authority. 

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) lawyer submitted that the gup had come to vote in the morning but after he saw the long queue returned home to vote later in the day. 

The court’s judgment stated that as per section 466 and 479 of Election Act of Bhutan 2008 on petitions, and dispute resolutions rules and regulations, the petitioner should have routed the petition through the ECB. “Since you have not followed the procedure, the court finds no grounds to accept the petition,” the judgment stated. 

Similarly, a tshogpa of the gewog Pema Dorji had remained at the Changchey Masepokto polling station the whole day with the polling officials and took pictures.

The ECB submitted that the gewog administrative officer had asked the tshogpa to help the polling officials and also send pictures of voters to update the election officials. 

The mismatch in voting results with the returning officer showing 181 voters voted at the polling station while the total votes cast was reflected as 196 was also found baseless. The results were from two different polling stations. 

The court after analysing the submissions from all the parties ruled that the allegations were false. 

The court found that Tashi Dorji had visited Rinchengang chiwog, where the community was performing rituals for the local deity on January 31, and gave Nu 10,000 from his discretionary fund and that the money was not given during the election period. “Even otherwise, the case should have been raised with relevant authorities and investigated thereafter. Thus, the court cannot investigate it separately,” the judgment stated. In this case, the court ruled that Passang Thrinlee had not done so. 

The court also ruled similarly on the allegation that Tashi Dorji had formed an association, Rada Phendey Tshogpa and gave it a Bolero utility vehicle. He had also given a statue to each gewog office. 

The formation of the association and giving the statue were not related with the National Council elections and that the formation of the tshogpa fell under the Civil Society Act 2007. 

Of the five candidates, Tashi Dorji was re-elected as Wangdue’s NC member with 4,995 votes. Passang Thrinlee from Bjena gewog got 3,751 votes.

Passang Thrinlee said that he had appealed as per section 467 of the Election Act of Bhutan 2008. 

The section states, “The authority to try an election petition relating to an election to the National Assembly or National Council shall be the High Court of Bhutan.” 

He said that the High Court mentioned nothing about it. 

“I took up the case seeking justice and rule of law in the interest of fair future elections.”

He said that he had not decided on whether to appeal but said that he honours the court’s decision. “I had expected the court for a judicial investigation on the field,” he said. 

Tashi Dorji said that he had no comments on the judgment. 

Tshering Palden 

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