Calling concerned citizens

Sonam Tshering is 23 years old. He is charged with smuggling tobacco. And, if convicted, he could be jailed for 3 to 5 years.

If Sonam Tshering did indeed smuggle tobacco, he should be sent to jail. That’s what the Tobacco Control Act sanctions. The laws of the land must prevail.

But think about this law. Think about how draconian the Tobacco Control Act really is. Sonam Tshering could go to jail for 3 years for possessing four packs of Baba chewing tobacco. Each pack has a dozen packets. So he had a total of 48 packets of chewing tobacco.

Each packet of Baba has 10 grams of tobacco. And carries a maximum retail price of Rs 2 per packet. So he was caught with 480 grams of tobacco that has a street value of Rs 96 in India.

Sonam Tshering could be sent to jail for 3 to 5 years for possessing Nu 96 worth of tobacco. Nu 96 is less than the current daily minimum wage.

As of today, Sonam Tshering has already spent three weeks in detention.

I went to see Sonam at the detention center. He was confused. He was distraught. And he was scared. Very scared.

Sonam is being charged for smuggling tobacco. The Thimphu District Court has already begun to hear his case. But he does not have a lawyer. Without one, he will not be able to argue that he was not smuggling tobacco; that 480 grams of tobacco could not be worth much even in a black market; and that he had purchased the tobacco for self-consumption.

Sonam Tshering possessed tobacco. That is against the law. So he should be punished.

But he shouldn’t be sent to jail for 3 to 5 years for possessing a mere 480 grams of chewing tobacco worth less than Nu 100. That would be wrong. Even if it is legally correct, it would still be wrong … and dangerous.

So I’m calling for lawyers. Concerned citizens who will represent Sonam Tshering and somehow convince the courts to dismiss the case, or, at the very least, to lighten the sentence.

And I’m calling for volunteers. I’m calling for concerned citizens who will lead a movement to amend the Tobacco Control Act.

 

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Comments

  1. Can we really do that. i mean ask the court to dismiss the case. the act is already approved by the parliament.

    I feel very sorry for the monk. Can we discuss the circumstances under which his sentence could be reduced or pardoned by the court.

    I don’t know how we (the people) in Bhutan can raise our voices to let the Govt. amend the Tobacco Control Act.

    We might loose our jobs/business if we do that

  2. Learn not to against the laws. If every case could be dismiss so easily, I think the crime rate will be increased in future. No more peace in Bhutan

  3. A few weeks ago my mother was visiting Thimphu from Phuentsholing. Since she is a smoker I called her and told her to get a receipt for her cigarettes because I thought the act was very serious. But my mother couldn’t get her receipt because apparently the Phuentsholing division has not received any instructions on how to do that. But I think, Thimphu and Paro ( because of the Airport has a procedure. A few days ago, I was at the basketball court and just outside, many people were smoking. I am not sure how many of them have receipts to legally smoke as per the act and i really don’t know where and how they get their cigarettes.
    I feel very sad for Sonam because it seems like luck didn’t favor him that day. I seems like being caught for an offense in Bhutan really depends on luck. otherwise, why would some people still smoke freely without fear and yet some get caught for possessing of tobacco that’s barely one days worth of wage.
    No where in the world has pronounced such a harsh punishment for something that is an individual’s right.
    People get by embezzling huge sums of money, people get by robbing houses and people get by beating their spouses. and yet, tobacco is such big deal… I don;t understand why and I don;t understand , where will they keep the all the criminals, if they can catch everyone who is in possession of tobacco in the whole country. Or is the policy being implemented only in Thimphu, Phuentsholing and Paro area

  4. Sonam Tshering is the first scapegoat and an example that will set a precedence – of fear among those who ‘dare’ to disregard the law. I feel he will be taken to the gallows just for that.

    In principle, personally, i do not agree to a law that criminalizes smoking or sale of tobacco. Yes, tobacco consumption is bad but in a democracy, tobacco consumption is a question of fundamental individual right. There is no fairness or justice in such a law. It is cruel.

    The end is noble but the means to that end isn’t. Such a law must be imposed when all other alternatives are exhausted.

    The irony is, those who are smoking are still smoking. They must be doing it more discretely but nonetheless they are doing. cigarettes are still available. Only its price has shot over the roof! The black market is still flourishing – and people are becoming creative than ever before in the way they ‘smuggle’.

    My personal take is: AMEND THE LAW, FREE SONAM TSHERING, EXPLORE ALTERNATIVES TO COMBAT SMOKING, AND NEXT TIME AN MP TALKS ABOUT THE ILLS OF SMOKING – DO NOT QUOTE RELIGION – IT MUST REMAIN ABOVE POLITICS!

  5. There is no death penalty in Bhutan, so no one will be taken to the gallows, least of all for tobacco smuggling.

    There appears to be factual inconsistency here. Kuensel states that he was caught with 72 packets of tobacco concealed under clothes in his bag.

    How do you proof / disproof that three-quarter kilos of tabacco was bought for self-consumption? What is the legal threshold weight to distinguish between personal consumption against criminal smuggling?

    Market value aside, can you reasonably argue that a good three-quarter of a kilo is for personal consumption? How long does one take to chew through 0.75kg of tobacco? I wonder.

    If you want to use dollars and cents, then should we not weigh the financial cost of treating the medical problems that arise from consuming Rs96 worth of tobacco?

  6. I for one is very skeptical about the implementation success of this Act. When most parliamentarians smoke, the Act has been passed. Most Police Officers, Trade Officers and Customs Officers are chain smokers. Will they judiciously implement teh Act?

  7. There is no way he can escape the sanction for the wrong he has done, otherwise the whole purpose of law is lost. The fact that he was not aware of the law doesn’t even stand as an defense. Basic principles of law state that ignorance of law is no excuse.

    Can we the public file an WRIT PETITION to the HIGH COURT. Is there a provision under the constitution by which a writ can be filed, 1. seeking reduction of punishment
    2. amendment of the Act, which I find it a must.

    i personally feel that the crime he has committed and the punished prescribed is disproportionate.

  8. Sonam is in detension because he comes from either a low level or middle level family. If he was some big shots Children, he would not even have seen the face of the detension center.

    And my Hon’ble OL, this is for you and your lot. The Tobacco Act was and has been passed by our hon’ble MPs and isn’t it too early to ask for amendments. This is proof enough of how well the MPs have doen their job and that includes yourself too.My heart goes out to Sonam and his family. I hope he is rescued soon and instead an MP caught for such an act. (No hard feelings)

  9. All the MPs, NCs and Ministers including the Prime Minister should be sent to jail instead of the Monk… because, they have violated the law (personal freedom) in a democratic country..

  10. ratho namgay says:

    the problem here is, the government should not have endorsed the tobacco act in the first place.now the act has come in effect, everyone starting from PM down to the ordinary farmer, must abide by it and cannot escape the brunt of the crime one commits.

    that said, my greatest fear is that what if the next person busted for carrying tobacco is one of the members of our parliament, flop-flippers. i can’t wait to see! lol
    one thing for sure is, if he is detained the member of the parliament from his constituency will surely lose in the next election. luther king jr said “the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.” so,let’s see how the ruling govt uses its means to achieve viable ends!!

  11. Mr. Viewer says:

    we should remember the definition of Democracy- be it Parliamentary Democracy or direct democracy. The peaceful land of the Dragon is not a communist country that the govt. tells the citizens what is healthy and what is not. Improve facilities rather then compromising in thickening the laws.
    Like Sonam, how many are going to be put behind the bars just for some sticks of cigarettes or packets of Tobacco.
    Say 10 smokes and are caught-
    3 years of imprisonment-
    some govt. employees, where their work is pending-
    some students where their life is shattered-
    the worse meal can even cost around 10 nu a day I think-
    so calculate it 10X10X336X3
    where this budget can be used to make some lives easier.
    I think this does not come from the contributions of our beloved parliamentarians…
    moreover as I stand here with a brainstorming discussion those who smoke, a better and wiser solution is rather pleaded for a better environment.
    How many are we going to jail. When I express this this is from a person who has never had a puff of smoke or tobacco. Still I find it really strange and an act of communist.
    Amend rules to have separate smoking launches in every bars and restaurants, regulate non-smoking in public then the harsh law.
    I am not sure how far our dear parliamentarians consulted the public. If I am not wrong, the parliamentarians are our great representatives and not our assumption law makers on the facts of their majority accessibility.
    I pledge that the regulation to be wisely regulated. Do all the parliamentarians confine that no one smokes or chews tobacco? Impossible…
    So even as a person never in life consumed tobacco, i find it rather doomed in the long run.
    IMPROVE FACILITIES THEN COMPROMISE AND STRICKEN THE LAW
    So gone are those days where Bhutan is the Shangri-la for tourist, the fact is in principle follow it but in reality where every one wants to drive a Prado or a Mercedes… Count the Prados outside the parliament building and assume the principle of Shangri-la.

  12. Linda Wangmo says:

    The National Assembly chaired by the Speaker and the National Assembly has really violated the Human Rights. This is inhuman and it is against the freedom of Mankind. The NA should at least give some time for serious smoker to quit. My own son is a smoker and the act came out of nowhere and I had to warn him to stop but just asking him to stop him was not okay… He had withdrawal symptoms and had a difficult time so I myself had to ask him to smoke and quit slowly… He is doing better and reduced to few sticks a day and till he quits I do have to let him do and I guess no parents want their child to suffer from what they are addicted to.

    Poor sonam, I had the chance to see him being escorted to Court My god for me it seemed that he is a criminal He was hand cuffed Is hand cuffing really necessary. I even met his father who is from a very poor background. He was in Tears… His only hope was to go to the so-called kidu cell. Hoping the PM would Grant him kidu, he was so desperate that he even wanted a kidu to shift his son from the Center box to Chamgang. At the Prime ministers office, He did not even had the chance to see the PM, instead he was told to go and ask Kidu from the King. They even sent him to the DPT office to draft a letter to the king for his Kidu. My questions is the government made this rule and why now push towards the King.

    I hope Sonam is freed soon… what if sonam is a family member of one of the MPs, Family members of one of this reader Come on Brothers, sisters, Father, mother Uncle and Aunties… we should not ignore this issue, stand up and lets fight because the next person caught might be one of you or your family members.

  13. First, the politicians build bridges where there is no river. Then they call the concerned citizens saying someone is drowning in the river!!

    If the honorable OL really cares, why doesn’t he file a suit of human rights violation against the government for passing such a draconian Act? It obviously violates the following articles in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

    Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
    Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
    Article 12: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    Throughout our history, politicians have found it necessary to enact laws that essentially try to save us from ourselves!!

  14. I do see a bit of severity in the provisions of the Act for the small business venturers. But, considering the human rights of the non-smokers, it is right as well to have such a law. My worry is more on implementation success of the law. The other day, in a friendly Archery match at Chamgang, I saw almost all the Police Officers smoking. If the law implementers desire to smoke, how much right will they have to control others from smoking.

    For Gelong Sonam, I do not find a ground to sympathy on him. He is a Monk. He is not supposed to encourage tobacco by his profession, forget about handling/trafficking the product.

  15. Lets say Sonam is convicted and imprisoned for three years for possessing less than Nu. 100 worth of tobacco.

    Lets calculate now. Three years = 36 months. Government will have to spend minimum Nu. 1000 per month for him to feed him. Therefore, Nu. 1000 x 36 months = Nu. 36,000.00

    Nu. 36,000.00 spent for crime worth Nu. 96.00 Wow what a law! Who should be penalized. Sonam or Law makers?????

  16. Kuenzang Thinley says:

    Yes, it is an undeniable fact that the law must be up held and it should prevail. But what when laws are enacted against the will of the nation -the people?

    literally speaking, tobacco is just a plant;- smoke able plant. and does it really justify criminalizing all the smokers??? if the answer is yes, I am afraid that we have all the criminals as law makers here in Bhutan.

    will there be anyone who can prosecute them? or are they above law?

    its very confusing here.

  17. I too feel so sorry for the monk and i agree with every point mentioned by Ol. so i am with you…..

  18. There is no point raising our voices here…Because I feel it wont go beyond these doors.

    If someone is really concerned and feel its wrong, he should come forward and lead the way…..but this wont happen in a democratic country of ours…coz surely gonna land up in jail..

    and the media i feel is not doing an adequate job, they need to do better

  19. pem tshering says:

    So many people are smoking including the MPs and the wives and seocnd wives of the MPs, Dashos and the PM’s. God knows who is going to catch these people and send them to court.

    I, for one, am with the OL and sincerely appeal the release of the innocent monk.

  20. Sorry I beg to differ with Hon’ble OL.

    The act is the culmination of the wisdom of the Highest Law making body of the Kingdom (which actually is the conscience of the nation) and has the blessings of Chinor Dampa Miwang Ngadag Rinpoche.

    An opinion of one person cannot change a law of the Kingdom.

    Had there been flaws in the Act, it would have been received the blessings from the Golden Throne.

    As of this case involving a monk, infact he should get similar sentence even without this Act in place. Reputation of Sangha has been jeopardized.

  21. Mr OL I feel the same like most of your readers but if the government is banning tobacco then why is alcohol left out? Alcohol should be banned.

  22. The ISSUE on the disscussion in totality i feel is too late. Hon`ble OL could have shouted in the NA hall and do whatever he could have done including anything within the dignified and lawful lengths and bredths. Now, it is a law that came from a highest body and we dont have anything in ourselves to ammend it every month. We cant spent time here for a funny argument or a movement against the enacted law to be changed again, for the simple reason that it is going to lead and reach no where. Instead, if we are really a concerned citizines of the soil, our top most fundamental duty is to abide by the laws and that is one way we serve oursleves. Whatever, lets now act strong and follow the laws.

  23. To all those MP s who were involve in enacting the ‘ban’, are you not ashamed of your decision? This is turning out to be one of the most ridiculous ‘ban’.

    I am with you, Hon’ble OL.

  24. Despite the ban, people still manage to get cigarettes from any other shops in the town. I think, instead of catching and punishing those innocent people like the monk caught last time with a minimal amount of tobacco for his own consumption, we should go for the bigger fish who smuggle in in more quantity and more importantly for sale and not self consumption. There are many shop keepers, esp in subji bazar who supple tobacco products to the smaller pan shops. These days, even some unexpected shops like the one who deals with groceries, shoes and gift shops started to sell tobacco product.

  25. patriotic lawyer says:

    we really gotta stand up against un-evenness in law… Some of our acts are vague,appalling, retrospective and unfair. It is in our hands, a common citizen’s voice to raise this issue and the time is now. Act now folks, Be the change that you wish to see.

  26. Law is law and it is above all…

    Tobacco Control Act 2010 and its Rules and Regulations are in place…but a thing to note is that implementation and enforcement is barely in place.

    Mr. Sonam he must had a bad day that day. Actually it’s good to know that tobacco is strictly prohibited in Bhutan and it creates some sort of lessons to fellow citizens attempting to smuggle or possess tobacco. Anyways if he is being punished just for possessing Nu. 96.00 worth of tobacco…that I would suggest persons concerned to not the office of DRC and RRCO Thimphu. Approximately 78% of officials smoke and chew tobacco. And i feel that none of them will have a receipt if asked to produce.

    If Law, Act and Rules & Regulations are for all then it should be applied for all.

    Finally, policy makers and decision makers should have extra brains to kindly deal with the tobacco situations in Bhutan without bring in the religious beliefs. Though some of them may be non-smoker and strongly against it.

  27. smokers & chewers = criminals
    criminals = MP’s & NC’s
    MP’s & NC’s = law makers
    therefore, all law makers are criminals……….

    Tobacco Control Act Only For Middle & Low Income Earners, Not For High Income Earner…….
    Money and Power, Everything In Bhutan and Also above the Law……..

    all the MP’s and NC’s have thought that for not supporting for this act, it would be a negative point for their next election. by supporting for this act they them self have been benefited, not as a whole. how…..??? nobody checks the vehicles of MP’s and NC’s those who are traveling from phuntsholing or any other route, why because they have got money, Power and Blue kabney isn”t it police & customs workers… who knows they might be carrying tobacco and Cigarettes inside the car. for us we drive a maruti 800 and they check each and every corner of the car, why…………?????? for this nobody can help because they will land up in one place that is Jail. for this only one can help us that is, please God do something plez plez plez…………

  28. everyone is shouting about “human right” as if smoking is ban in the country…common guys, don’t mislead people…everyone is allowed to smoke except in public places and u have right to import for ur personal consumption….it is just that u r not allow to import illegally without paying tax….be it monk or mp or dasho or minister, if u ve violated the law, then u deserve punishment….

  29. Hi everyone including OL,
    Its sad that Sonam is the first to be caught and many would follow him unless law changes…. because that is what our nations highest legislative body has produced over a period of two year debating on the Tobacco Control Bill in the Parliament…..

    I don’t see OL’s point of writing here… Did OL vote for the motion or against the Motion while passing the law….only god knows.

    I don’t blame the enforcers like POLICE because they just servants of the government and if they fail they may lose job….

    Just wanted to remind the OL and MPS and NCs that take this as a lesson when you are in the Gyelyong Tshokhang so that it will remind you to take a better decision which will be more reasonable and morally acceptable by the majority and you derive satisfaction instead of regret.

  30. I think the DPT government never planned on a monk being the first one to be caught under this draconian law. Now that the unthinkable has happened, it seems that they don’t know how to proceed with the case. Just imagine getting 5 years jail term for carrying 200 Nu worth of chewing tobacco when a rapist gets just 3 years.

  31. 5 years for carrying Nu.200 worth of chewing tobacco and 3 years for rape. How will the government explain this to the larger international community.

  32. Denagchung says:

    Well, I think this case is something which I would agree as well as disagree. Now as our OL said, the punishment should be decremented as its only case of tobacco handling that too value of less than Nu. 100. Yes thats very true. Why should someone be penalized so much for something which is not worth Nu. 100 also.

    Now in other hand, we are still aware that even if a person is caught getting in a packet of Cigarette which too is tobacco product, which is not even worth Nu. 50, then he/she is penalized or fined as if he/she has robbed a bank. So, I guess that value of less then Nu. 100 and less than Nu. 50 should be noted properly and Acts of tobacco to be either followed strictly or change it entirely.

  33. if we press the voting machine same way in 2013 then we are not allowed eat pork. Because pork will get BP problem. This time DPT government baned tobacco to control the lung cancer.

  34. I recall years ago, when we were still blessed with a monarchy system, people including myself used to talk so lowly of the elected representatives in Parliament and the discussions that pursued during the NA…the elected repersentatives were looked down upon because everyone felt that the issues they raised were at most times minuscule and therefore those debates with the use of proverbs(which I personally found interesting) was a waste of time. And now, what have our ‘educated, qualified’ MPs done in the same forum? They have passed a law for the country which puts behind bars citizens for possessing tobacco without receipts. Who was right? What was the right course of action…endless debates over same issues or this kind of harsh decisions? Are we getting any better as a nation…it is worth asking oneself.

  35. I am not a smoker but the Act is cruel, anti-constitutional and makes a mockery about our country.

    Hell with those who proposed it and damn be those who voted without using their head.

  36. Honourable…

    I Stand behind you for the movement to amend the draconian Tobacco Control Act.

  37. After going through above articles and comments, i have a mixed feeling more of negative to the TCA. it is a dangerous Act.
    to be frank the act was not educated to the people at the grass roots, ofcourse they went to few dzonkhags and met handful of officials. the fact is what about more than 60 percent of the people living in the villages. they did not do enough to covnince the people… common its democratic bhutan, the views of the people must be respected equally. the real problem is everything flows from top to bottom, where as the nature of democracy is, it should be the opposite. all these blame goes to the MPs including OL. they are law makers, they are quafied people and this is what they have done in the name of GNH ( the word loved by every one).

    HAHA after all bhutanese want to make great by passing the laws and rules which is international standard but not applicable in the country and want to amend it after few years…thats their job….nothing more than that.

    Where is GNH??? it is not a copy right or patent or brand name.

  38. The need for more men/women with good reasoning and foresight as legislators is becomming more and more evident. Sadly, the intent of needing a college degree seems to be unfulfilled. The need for debate with a sizable opposition is becoming very clear!

    I fear the repercussions as a result of laws which infringe upon fundamental individual rights. People will come together to fight such laws brought about by passion instead of reason. People coming together for putting in a little sense to the legislators is fine, but the dangerous part is when coming together becomes a everyday necessity, a habit and then some smart people start manipulating the new found habit of these affected people.
    The rippling effect of the tobacco ban has far more social consequences that our passionate law makers can think of.

  39. Well it sounds very funny that such a law exist in Bhutan…the law makers are jokers…instead of public education and advocacy, the govt finds it good with prison..its like corporal punishment has come back…
    I think OL should organise a march to defy such draconian law in the country of peace..
    this is direct violation of human rights..

  40. True Dukpa says:

    Since when did Bhutan start to respect Human Rights? It has been openly violated and nobody did or does anything about it, so in context to the Tobacco Control Act, though it is clearly subjected to arbitrary interference of individual, it will be a case whereby no one will ever oppose to it.

  41. I think the Act is a result of having exhausted all the options to stop smuggling of tobacco. So rather than passing Acts and again making changes we must enforce. I do however agree that we must give some time for people to be aware of the Act. This will also help BNCA and DRA people to travel more and make more TA/DAs.

    I think we need to have similar kind of Act to prevent pollution of our environment. It is terrible to see plastics and toxic things thrown everywhere. It is so sad that even as a country with population of less than a million we cannot keep our environment clean.

    Where are the so called Hygiene Inspectors of City Corporation gone? We hope the new management of Thimphu City Corporation will initiate concrete things to keep thimphu clean. People who put tsuni on electric poles and walls, spit doma on the walls and corners and dump plastics should also be put in jail.

  42. Where are our Fundamental Right? Down with DPT’s Governments Dictatorship.Lyonpo JYT is a Hard core Communist follower.Stalin of south east asia.

  43. bhutan’s tobacco act is more harsh than the other acts which is more punishable. is this the law made for human being. i think this is ill law of jigme y thinley and his worthless MPs. innocient monk has been detained for three weeks and still dont know how long…
    i think voice should be raise to amend the law. if this is happen to one of the lyonpos son or daughter problem must have solved. for instance lyonpos son who accused women was solve with small compromise because if this is in the court and if verdict is passed then i think she might lose her job or promotion. likewise sonam should be free from detention. that is not the law for human being who makes such small crimes.

  44. Well, after reading the media coverage on the judgment and as a legal professional for the last 15 years, and if the laws are interpreted as per the interoretation of statutes, Sonam Tshering’s sentence would be decreased and it would be bailable offense. Therefore, if Sonam Tshering approaches me then i think i can help him….at least i can try to get him a sentence which is bailable. And i think there is no harm in trying even though the final interpretation is by the court.

    therefore i would be willing to help sonam tshering if he wants me to……i can be contacted at 17633828, email: meetcheda@gmail.com. this is in addition to the lawyer that he already has as reported in Bhutan Times

  45. wangyel says:

    People are still wondering why Sonam Tshering, who was caught with 48 packets of chewing tobacco at the Chunzom police checkpost, has been sentenced to three years prison by the court. The Tobacco Control Act 2010 requires any one found possessing tobacco without proof of tax and duty payments revealed the source of supply he/she shall be liable for the offence of misdemeanor.
    In Sonam Tshering’s case, he revealed the source and why he was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment (4th degree felony) when Tobacco Control Act 2010 has very clearly categorized that offence under misdemeanour. If he failed to reveal the source, then obviously he should be imprisoned for 3 to 5 years. The section 11(c) states that, “no person in the country shall sell and buy tobacco and tobacco products”. Then the section 51 of the act states, “Any person who contravenes the provision of section 11(c) shall be punishable with misdemeanor if the source of supply is revealed. If the accused fails to disclose the source of supply, he or she shall be liable for the offence of smuggling in addition to the offence of misdemeanor”. So many people will wonder why he was sentenced for 3 years though he revealed the source.
    When any one is prohibited to sell tobacco, how judiciary can expect the source of supply as one of the vendor of Bhutan. If this is not the case, then why the deciding court not satisfied when he revealed the source of supply as Jaigaon to punish him for misdemeanour.
    If our government is to strictly follow the tobacco act, then where are the designated places for those smokers to smoke who pay 100% taxes for tobacco /cigarette? When law implementing agencies themselves to fail to implement what law requires, why simply punish the innocent people with such harsh penalty.
    Even in ethics and law, “Let the punishment fit the crime” is the proportionality principle of punishment versus crime that the severity of penalty for a misdeed or wrongdoing should be reasonable and proportionate to the severity of the infraction or crime. The crime’s level of severity need to be determined by the amount of harm, unfair advantage or moral imbalance the crime caused. Is this proportionality principle of punishment versus crime being followed by our parliamentarians while introducing this Tobacco Control Act? Even if the parliamentarians have failed to follow this principle, I strongly argue that our judges who are all highly qualified and well verse with such rich principles of law should translate such principles to render justice.
    Considering the severity of the crime committed by Sonam Tshering, when he is being sentenced for 3 years imprisonment, I think he is being subjected to cruel punishment which our constitution seems prohibiting under the article 7, section 17. Our constitution states, “A person shall not be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. As a concern citizen of Bhutan, I dare to call this punishment as inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
    So we hope the lawyer representing on his behalf will appeal. We don’t expect the decision that invites criticism.

  46. wangyel says:

    Advocate Cheda,
    It’s nice to hear that you are also willing to help Sonam Tshering.
    Anyway, please don’t wait for Sonam Tshering or his family’s call because they might be Illiterate to reach in this blog to find you. Better you contact the other lawyer soon as possible.
    If you are going to represent Sonam Tshering, please you should not let police to still keep Sonam Tshering in their custody or detention. You are well aware that our CCPC itself is silent on this, when the lower court passed the judgment, the person appealing should be still in the detention or he should set free during the appeal period.
    However, as you know, most of the people involving in corruption people are set free when they make their appeal to the appellate court. Live example of this is DGM case. Though some of them are convicted by lower court for felony, we still find them appealing without being made to stay under police custody or detention. So set this precedence since justice is meant for every people of this soil without any discrimination as stated in our constitution.
    ALL THE BEST AND WE HOPE YOU CAN MAKE DIFFERECE.

  47. Dear responsible citizen of Bhutan,

    If u fail to raise ur voice in the matter like this,where innocent citizens are being tortured time and again by govt in the name of ‘rules and regulation’,which in itself is nothing but just the barriers against freedom,implemented by ill-hearted(so-called MPS) to enslave people.. than u cant do anythhing and u will always miss the necter of the democracy..and u always remain slave….RISE UP,IN SUPPORT OF SONAM TESHRING, IF NOT AGAINST HEARTLESS GOVT.

    Regards,
    Tika

  48. RKKotas says:

    Possession of Nu 96 (US$ 2) worth of tobacco punished with 3 years. Hats off to the judges and upholders of law for their landmark judgement. Do they know how petty they have acted. Law must be respected but not imposed to punish so severely an act which is insignificant compared to the cases of corruption, nepotism, misuse of public money and power, forcible purchase of prime land or even industries by the powerful. Where are you headed, the so-called democracy in Bhutan? Is there really a democracy or is it just GNH of the few powerful people?
    As Hon’ble MP, please speak for the rights but be careful with the powerful lords who may accuse of being anti-national and charge you with “treason”. There is a precedence which we all know. Unearthing corruptions has almost cost many people their lives!

  49. dear ol,
    plz in advance i request u to save me when i caught for smoking, ol i tried many times to quit smoking but every time i failed n my dear wife alys tell me to stop, but every time i say kk to her is big,really i cant stop smoking. i know the price for cigrate is 220 per packet still i cant stop it. dear ol plz save me when luck doest favour me tup ga la.

  50. Sharchop says:

    What is happening with the law??? we, public are very confused with it.What is the main aim to ban tobacco?? is it because its a Buddhist country or have some other environment reasons or bla bla.. if the govt. is thinking about the ban then it should be a total ban.it is very funny that people can smoke if he is registered or pay excess tax..it is a discrimination between poor and rich..after all ADDICTION remains same for the poor and rich. i think impact remains the same between the registered smokers and unregistered ones. Take an example, someone like Sonam Tshering is being treated as criminal and ……(to be continue)

  51. Everyone agrees that most parliamentarians are smokers themselves. If they are to be selfish and acted as per their whims, the tobacco act would not have passed with large majority voted in favour. It means that they represent the will of the people. And, it means that the intent of the act is for the cause of good.

    We all know that the law on ban of tobacco is not introduced for the first time. The erstwhile law on ban of tobacco had proved inefficient principally due to lack of stricter punishments.

    If history is any indication, smoking and ingesting tobacco has done much damage to the humanity. It’s high time now that society must accept ‘using tobacco’ as a crime just as any other crime.

  52. A law has been passed and has been passed without much opposition even by the smokers themselves. I wish simple economics had been looked into before passing the act.
    from a population of 650,000, if we consider 5 per cent as smokers, that would amount to 32,500 packets of cigarettes a day. If each packet of cigarette costs Nu.60 and a tax of Nu.120, it would bring the government Nu.3.9 million ngultrums a day, Nu.117 a month, Nu.1404 million ngultrums a year. This is not a small amount.
    The very high tax on cigarettes would dissuade smokers to cut down or totally give up.
    On the other hand, how many smokers, chewers of tobacco can be taken to court and behind bars. Consider the time a judge would have to spend on the case… This time can be better spent on other cases.. for which there is a long queue.
    How many would have to fed in the already cramped prisons. If each person in possession of tobacco products is jailed for three years and the cost of three meals a day is Nu.50 day then it would come to Nu.18000/year/person. Imagine if 100 people are locked up and that would be Nu. 1,800,000.
    So why spend Nu.1,800,000 when the government can make Nu.1404 million a year?
    Government today is talking about shortage of funds to see the 10th FYP through. So an easy solution is to levy heavy tax on cigarettes than spend on feeding people (many could be productive)behind bars.

  53. Respected OL
    we are pleased despite being world’s smallest opposition party you are always brave and undefeated. Your concerns for citezen are impressive but maybe of many works you couldnt cover all..
    Dasho am precisely talking about scholarship students sent to India. If under ur enlightened conscience can reflect back there was an issue of raising stipen for scholarships in India but it has already been too long without any effect…if u could elaborate such small but an important issues in NA hall i hope there will be atleast a discussion. We are really suffering in the name of scholarship…please do something

  54. Kesang Wangchuk says:

    I personally don’t smoke or chew tobacco and in a perfect world I would like others to follow suit. A place like Singapore selling chewing gum is banned but chewing is not. So whilst the selling of tobacco should be banned, I feel that the punishment for imprisoning the culprit for possessing few packets is too harsh. No doubt that the long term effect of consumption of tobacco is injurious to our health which is actually costing a lot to the government exchequer in meeting the medical demands of the people.

    I feel that whatever law is passed by the parliament, the core value of GNH must not be undermined. This harsh law of imprisonment is clearly a mistake and as a human being we all make mistakes but the fact of the matter is that we must realize our mistakes and take immediate measures to correct it. Otherwise in lay man terms, this law will make many an enemy from within, which is more dangerous than an enemy from outside and as a small nation we cannot afford to do that. We cannot brew our own enemy!

  55. Dear OL,

    Hats off!! to you and your unwavering service to the people who are denied justice by our autocratic govt. you are our Saviour!!!I just want to bring this important issue to your notice.people show concern and sympathy only to sonam tshering and blame law for favouring paro airport tobacco case.it is not so, infact they are harassed more. so much of corruption going on right from the organisation that they were working.heard from a very reliable source that the actual owner of the cigrette is outside scott free while a capt is made the scape goat.is it because he has all the support from his commandant? who is totally enclaved in his sycophancy acts.he gets from bkk everything starting from body scrubs to branded wrinkle creams.ask anyone of the airport security offr, he is a known sycophant.this is the main reason why this man is being kept in the same post for 4 continuous years.because he then doesnt have to go to outposts as far as lingshi like other offrs do. so much has happened in the airport involving an offr and a constable but the security offr who should be accountable for anything happening under his jurisdiction is still continuing as security offr as if nothing has hapened.if its in other wings, he must have been replaced by other offr by now. and one special previlege that he enjoys is he stays out of campus, when its not allowed for others. what is happening? is sycophancy the solution to all your problems?

  56. Rindor Dorji says:

    everyone talks about corruption in the army but can do nothing. My only hope is OL now. There is so much corruption in the army starting from the top head of the army. Known for favouring his relatives, of members of the high class in the army, within the army the unprevilaged ones hate him. He is known for doing things to gain good points with you know who la. to the ones below him, he will treat them like animals. the ones who bring him gifts and runs errands for him in the border towns and the ones he likes. Below the mid level people, he is so unpolular, and we know why. with the upper class he is so POPULAr!!! I wish god would show his real picture to you all. OL, me and the family of low level army members and the under previleged ones have hope in you. WHEN THE WHOLE NATION SEES THE CORRUPT PRACTISE IN THE ARMY WHY IS NO ACTION BEING TAKEN???

  57. Same Law of the land must prevail. We cannot have different laws for PDP loyalist nor for DPT!!!

  58. Dorji Drayang says:

    We know what type of people wrote editorial and shitty articles of Bhutan Today and Journalist. I wish they are still in the jail for marijuana abuses.

    The question is not wether tobacco act is draconian or not…it is about why media supported those against from from their smoky dingy room.

    OL you don’t have people’s mandate…please don’t play politics against law…Best of Luck next time for annulement of the Act.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Tobgay calls all the concerned Bhutanese citizens to lead a movement to amend the draconian Tobacco Control Act, which can penalize 23 year old Sonam […]

  2. […] Tobgay calls all the concerned Bhutanese citizens to lead a movement to amend the draconian Tobacco Control Act, which can penalize 23 year old Sonam […]

  3. […] why I called for concerned citizens. […]

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