Bhutan’s most senior SC judge, top Army officer detained in ‘conspiracy’ case

In a case that is being perceived as an alleged conspiracy involving the top echelons of the judiciary and the military in Bhutan, police in the country have detained the senior-most judge of its Supreme Court, a top Army officer and a district court judge for allegedly plotting to replace Bhutan’s Chief Justice, Army chief and a top law officer.

According to Bhutan’s state-run official newspaper, Kuensel, the Bhutan police on Wednesday detained the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, Kuenlay Tshering, along with the drangpon (associate justice) of the Pemagatshel Dzongkhag administrative unit, Yeshey Dorji.

Incidentally, Justice Kuenlay Tshering was present when Justice S A Bobde was sworn-in as the Chief Justice of India in November 2019.

Justice Tshering had said recently that he had studied law in Bombay University.

Kuensel reported that the two arrests were made after a former Royal Body Guard commandant, Brigadier Thinley Tobgye, was detained in connection with a criminal conspiracy against the Chief Operations Officer — equivalent to Army chief — of the Royal Bhutan Army.

“The alleged criminal conspiracy case came to the fore after a woman who was arrested a few months ago revealed details about the conspiratorial relationship. As per sources, the three allegedly wanted to become the RBA’s Chief Operations Officer, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the attorney general or registrar general of Supreme Court,” the report said.

The Bhutanese, a privately-run newspaper, gave a more detailed account of the case.

“Yesterday evening, after office hours were over, the Royal Bhutan Police detained the Supreme Court Judge Kuenlay Tshering (Elephant Bench or Bench 1) and Pemagatshel Dzongkhag Drangpon (Pemagatshel district judge) Yeshey Dorji. Judge Kuenlay was detained from his home. This was following the earlier detention of former Royal Body Guard Commandant Brigadier Thinley Tobgay,” the report said.

Authored by The Bhutanese editor Tenzing Lamsang, the report quoting sources said that the three were detained in the same case of trying to frame the current Chief Operations Officer of the RBA, Goongloen Gongma (Lt General) Batoo Tshering in what is being called “an untrue corruption case”.

It said that the former RBG Brigadier Thinley Tobgay allegedly had “illegally obtained some documents from the RBA on the procurement of United Nation vehicles” and was attempting to use the documents to “undermine the COO”.

The report said the Brigadier was accused of using a woman named Khandu Wangmo to pass on those documents to Justice Tshering to frame charges so that it could be sent to the Anti-Corruption Commission of Bhutan for a case against the COO.

It said that the district judge Yeshey Dorji is not directly involved in the above process but was detained because he was aware of what was going on.

The Bhutanese reported, quoting sources, that the “three accused were friends who were well known to each other”.

“The motivation of the group was to take on the positions of the COO, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General or the Registrar General of the Supreme Court,” it said.

The case has been sent to the Thimphu District Court on Wednesday morning based on the investigation by police.

Sources in New Delhi called the current situation “unprecedented” in the Himalayan nation, adding that India was closely tracking the case in Thimphu.

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