Virtuous precedence

“linda”, a regular commentator, screamed in my last post:

ANY SAY ON THE TANALUM TOBACCO CASEEEEEE? DIFFERENT LAWS IN DIFFERENT DISTRICT, DIFFERENT LAWS BY DIFFERENT DRANGPON …. DIFFERENT LAWS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE

What upset “linda” was the apparent inconsistency the verdict by the Chukha District Court on a 29-year old bus driver.

On 16th March, in Tanalum, the driver had been caught with 10 packets of Baba chewing tobacco and two packets of cigarettes. He was charged with smuggling tobacco under the Tobacco Control Act.

On 28th March, the driver had been released on bail.

And on 30th March, the district court decided that the driver had not smuggled tobacco, but had possessed the tobacco for his personal consumption. The court ruled that possessing tobacco for self-consumption is a misdemeanor, a bailable offense, and sentenced the driver to a prison term of one year.

That, in short, is what I know about what “linda” calls the “tanalum tobacco case”. My knowledge comes from Bhutan Today. Their website continues to remain inactive, so I’ve attached a copy of their article at the end of this post.

Now for my “say on the tanalum tobacco case”. I welcome the Chukha District Court’s verdict.

Number one, the driver was allowed bail during the trail. Great! After all, the driver couldn’t have been that great a threat to society (or to himself) to deny him bail.

Number two, the case was wrapped up in barely two weeks. Again, great!

And number three, the district court ruled that the accused had possessed tobacco for personal consumption, and that he was not involved in contraband. Great! Absolutely great!

Sending the driver to jail for one year for possessing 10 packets of khaini and two packets of cigarettes is stiff. But the sentence is bailable. And the sentence is required by the Tobacco Control Act.

Convicting the driver of smuggling, and sentencing him to three years in prison, without bail, would be draconian. That would also be wrong. The driver couldn’t possibly be carrying the 10 packets of khaini to sell in the black market. He couldn’t be smuggling.

I’m excited about the tanalum tobacco case verdict for another reason. Precedence. I’m hopeful that the verdict sets a virtuous precedence for future judgments, including Sonam Tshering’s who has appealed to the High Court.

Sonam Tshering, by the way, is represented by Cheda, a partner with UC Associates. Cheda and his legal firm are representing Sonam Tshering and Lhab Tshering pro bono.

Sonam Tshering’s trial at the High Court is expected to begin today. He’s already been in detention for 71 days.