By Tashi Namgyal
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) received as many as 1060 cases in general in 2020, witnessing a marginal increase of 120 cases compared with the previous year.
The OAG radiated positivity simultaneously as the number of crimes against womenalso dropped significantly.
The Office received five case reports involving thirteen individuals from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), four from the Ministries and government agencies, and 1051 cases from the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP).
Of the five case reports received from the ACC, one case involving five defendants has been dropped while the other four cases involving eight defendants remain under review, according to the OAG’s Annual Report 2020.
However, there was a decrease of nine cases in 2020 compared with 2019.
Simultaneously, the fourteen case reports received in 2019 involved a total number of 151 individuals whereas the five case reports received in 2020 involved only thirteen individuals.
Cases received from Ministries/Agencies
The OAG received a total of four cases from Ministries and other government agencies last year, a decrease by single case compared with the previous year. These case reports involved various diversified offences which necessitated further segregation.
From the eleven offences recorded in total, five offences pertained to illegal trade in tiger skin and bones, three offences relating to smuggling of red sandalwood, two offences of illegal import and sale of pesticide and one offence of constructing septic tanks on others land.
The 1051 case referrals from RBP comprised crimes of all nature against persons, property among others. The Office also saw an increase in the crime reports compared with the previous year, mainly attributed to the prosecution of persons who breached Covid-19 protocols.
From the total cases received, 511 cases have been successfully prosecuted, 419 cases remain sub-judice before courts in the country, and 42 under review of the OAG. While 59 cases were returned for additional investigation, 20 cases involving minors were diverted for an alternative measure in lieu of incarceration.
Offences committed against women and children
Although women and children are more susceptible to be victimized, 2020 radiated positivity as the year saw a substantial decline in the number of crimes against women with only 12 cases, compared to 32 cases in 2019.
The offences against women included one case each of rape and rape of a married woman, three cases of gang rape, five cases of domestic violence, one case of computer pornography, and one case of criminal elopement.
The OAG recorded 67 cases against children in 2020, an increase of six cases compared with the preceding year. The majority of these crimes against children comprised offences of molestation with fourteen cases recorded, statutory rape with eleven cases and forty two cases of rape of a child above the age of twelve.
In their bid to safeguard the rights of the children and prompt deterrence of such crimes, the OAG indicted maximum imprisonment on defendants.
Narcotic Drugs and related cases
228 cases related to drug trafficking were recorded with the OAG in 2020. Upon segregation of these cases under various criminal indictments, 122 cases comprised offences of illicit trafficking of drugs and psychotropic substances, 47 cases against offences of illicit trafficking of Cannabis and its derivatives, one case of sale of inhalant/solvents, and 42 cases against offences of sale of tobacco. A total of 16 cases of substance abuse were also recorded.
Further, a total of 48 cases against cultural and national heritage were recorded with the OAG. This was an increase of 29 cases recorded during the previous year. It comprised 28 cases of offences against Ku, Suung, Thuk, Ten orZung; 7 cases of illegal sale or purchase of antiques; 10 cases of larceny of antiques; and 3 cases of damage to religious objects.
Although stringent Covid-19 protocols were imposed with the sealing of the border gates with India due to the onset of the pandemic, the OAG received 179 cases involving 287 defendants who were charged with the offences of criminal nuisance and breach of public order and tranquility for breaching Covid protocols.
However, as a number of defendants breached the Covid protocols whilst trafficking narcotic drugs and tobacco products, separate charges of illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and tobacco related charges were levied on them.
Child in Conflict with the Law
The OAG recorded 50 cases where children were the perpetrators. Of these, 14 cases involved children committing battery while 13 cases involved burglary. The remainder of the cases involved offences of illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, child molestation, statutory rape, criminal attempt to murder, larceny and others.
Except for heinous crimes recidivists, the OAG in their effort to protect the rights of children implemented diversion in most of these cases as an alternative to sentencing.
Meanwhile, in 2020, the total recovery in restitution from the State prosecution through the enforcement of judgments was Nu 33.73 million. The Office restituted a total Nu18.06 million to victims of crimes, while Nu 15.67 million was recovered and remitted to the State.