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EXTRADITION TRIAL OF RONGTHONG  KUNLEY DORJI

  1. Shri Rongthong Kunley Dorji, the Chairman of the Druk National Congress, a Bhutanese political party seeking the establishment of democracy in Bhutan under Constitutional Monarchy, was arrested on the 18th of April, 1997 in New Delhi, on the pretext that he did not posses travel documents. But he is now facing extradition proceedings in India, in pursuance of an extradition request by the Royal Bhutanese Government to the Government of India.

  2. Given the facts of the case, it is more than obvious that the wrong legal issues and circumstances have been erroneously addressed in a highly irrational, unreasonable manner while taking the decision to initiate the extradition proceedings, since no prima facie case is made out against Shri Dorji, i.e. there is no satisfaction recorded that any sufficient ground for proceeding against him exists, and the complaint shows that, on the face of it, the essential ingredients of the extradition offence are absent, therefore any extradition proceedings against Shri Dorji would constitute a political abuse of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962.

  3. It is evident that the alleged warrants issued by the Royal Court of Justice, Bhutan and the Royal Bhutanese Government's request for Shri Dorji's extradition is politically motivated, mala fide, based on political vendetta and its deep-rooted conspiracy. The following facts and events based on documentary evidence prove the politically motivated and extraneous character of the extradition request :

    • Shri Dorji was arrested in Bhutan in May 18, 1991, on charges of allegedly being involved in the pro-democracy movement, imprisoned without trail or process of law and was kept in the most inhuman conditions and tortured for 49 days.

    • It was only after such cruel treatment that he was granted Royal pardon on July 6, 1991 and released from prison. The pardon document evidences the fact that his arrest and detention was of a political character, particularly because the signatories are no less than the Bhutanese Home Minister, Chief Justice of Bhutan, and other senior Bhutanese Government officials.

    • He had to leave for Gawahati, Assam, immediately thereafter, on July 8, 1991, to seek treatment for the injuries caused to him due to the torture during imprisonment. His treatment continued for almost a month. While undergoing treatment he learnt from a reliable source that he would be kidnapped from Gawahati by the Bhutanese security forces, re-arrested and eliminated, he thus fled for Nepal on August 3, 1991, with the help of well-wishers and friends.

    • He was examined by the Centre for the Victims of Torture in Nepal and its certificate evidences that he was tortured by third-degree methods in Bhutan. In Nepal the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Nepal granted him refugee status based on which His Majesty's Government of Nepal granted him political asylum.

    • Unable to let down his countrymen and bowing down to their constant pressure from both inside and outside Bhutan, Shri Dorji formed the Druk National Congress in June 16, 1994, to work for the establishment of democracy in Bhutan under Constitutional Monarchy. He was unanimously elected as the Party's Chairman.

    • Anticipating the potential political threat, the Royal Bhutanese Government had been continuously trying to entice Shri Dorji to come back to Bhutan.

    • In 1993, Shri Dorji's brother, who was a Director in the Ministry of Home was transferred to a North-western District as its Chief District Administrator. Despite knowing about his susceptibility to mountain sickness, he was ordered to accompany a survey team to the northern borders. He fell ill on the way and despite being in serious condition had to walk back to the nearest town, a days walk away. He died on the way. Rescue helicopters are sent to evacuate even the junior-most soldiers when their condition is life-threatening, but in the case of Shri Dorji's brother, who was the senior-most government officer of the District, no helicopter was sent. Shri Dorji was contacted by the Bhutanese ambassador in New Delhi with a message from the King offering him security to come to Bhutan to attend his brother's funeral. Shri Dorji, informed about the plot and the trap by his supporters in the country, declined the offer.

    • In 1994, after the formation of the Druk National Congress, the then Chief of Police, who was also Shri Dorji's brother-in-law, was sent to Nepal by the King to persuade Shri Dorji to return to Bhutan. He was offered whatever material wealth he desired in exchange for an offer to come back to Bhutan. He refused. The Chief of Police was thrown into prison on fabricated charges to serve a three-year jail-term for his failure to bring Shri Dorji back to Bhutan.

    • In 1995, for the first time, the National Assembly of Bhutan, which had never before in its sessions in 1991, 1992 or 1993 mentioned Shri Dorji's activities in exile or his alleged loan defaults, began labelling such allegations against him. (In 1994, the year Shri Dorji formed the Druk National Congress, the Royal Bhutanese Government, in a dilemma did not call any National Assembly session. It is pertinent to mention that the National Assembly of Bhutan functions merely as a rubber stamp of the Bhutanese Regime and no popular elections are held to select its members).

    • Shri Dorji led the Druk National Congress to successfully implement its programmes particularly inside Bhutan, and the Bhutanese democracy movement consolidated under his leadership. In keeping with his responsibilities, he began to visit India to interact with Indian policy-makers and the Indian people.

    • The Royal Bhutanese Government panicked, apprehensive of the inevitable political change in Bhutan that would strike at the very foundation of its autocratic rule, and began to manufacture ways and means, fair or foul, to crush the Bhutanese movement for democracy. The attempt to extradite Shri Dorji to Bhutan was a move designed solely in that direction.

    • The Royal Court of Justice, High Court of Bhutan, allegedly issued the warrant dated December 20, 1996, against Shri Dorji on an alleged application dated December 20, 1996, made by the Royal Bhutan Police requesting for the same. The said Royal Court of Justice, as per its alleged judgement dated December 20, 1996, "carefully examined" all the different cases by making detailed investigations(in the various parts of the country), and passed its judgement and issued the warrant of arrest the very same day the application was received i. e. December 20, 1996. (It can be also noted that the dispatch number of the arrest warrant is HC(CJ-1)96-97/4046, and the judgement to issue the arrest warrant is HC(CJ-1)96-97/4047, suggesting that the arrest warrant was issued before the judgement). The Home Minister of Bhutan, made an official request dated February 12, 1997, to the Government of India for Shri Dorji's extradition to Bhutan.

    • Based on this Royal Bhutanese request, the Government of India began extradition proceeding against Shri Dorji vide its order dated July 1, 1997.

    • On realising that as per Indian extradition law, (i) a person's extradition cannot be sought for offences of a political character, (ii) that the warrant dated December 20, 1996, included offences of political character, (iii) that Shri Dorji's extradition would not be possible if based on the said warrant, the Royal Bhutanese Government manufactured another warrant dated April 25, 1997, which excluded the political charges. Repeating the same exercise, the Royal Bhutan Police allegedly makes an application dated April 24, 1997, to the Court of Justice, upon which the Court of Justice makes a detailed investigation and allegedly passes a judgement on April 25, 1997 and the warrant of arrest is allegedly issued on the same day i. e. April 25, 1997. Another Extradition Agreement, allegedly signed between Bhutan and India on December 28, 1996, is notified on May 21, 1997, to facilitate Shri Dorji's extradition. Then another extradition request dated June 25, 1997, was made by the Bhutanese Home Minister to the Government of India again requesting for Shri Dorji's extradition based on the new documents.

  4. The documents supplied by the Royal Bhutanese Government to the Government of India in support of their extradition request can be devided into two parts. One, the documents related to financial matters which allegedly date pre-1991, and two, the documents related to the acts alleged to have been committed by Shri Dorji after 1994, i.e. after the formation of the Druk National Congress.

    • The first group of fabricated charges are commercial transactions governed by the Loan Act of Bhutan, which provides procedures of civil nature for recovery of such loans. None of these charges involve any criminality or culpability in it. The documents do not contain any material to show on-going litigation or any evidence to support the charges and no criminal case or any criminal prosecution is pending against Shri Dorji in these cases. Moreover the documents reveal contradictions, fabrications, including circumvention and violation of their own laws by the Royal Bhutanese Government in a bid to fabricate a case against Shri Dorji. Particularly, as per the Thrimzhung Chhenpo(the Supreme Law of the Land), such unlawful acts must be brought to the notice to the Court of law within 7 days from the day such transaction was undertaken, otherwise the Court shall not entertain any complaint. Therefore, this Bhutanese statute alone renders all the charges in this group null and void under Section 31(b) of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962.

    • The second group of charges pertains to the post-1994 era which saw the intensification of the Bhutanese pro-democracy movement under Shri Dorji's leadership. None of these fabricated charges make out any case under the National Security Act as claimed by the Royal Bhutanese Government, or for that matter under any other law of Bhutan, as the documents do not reveal anything to corroborate the charges. Even otherwise, all these charges are of political character and it is evident that the requisition for Shri Dorji's extradition has been sought in order to punish him for his and his Party's active participation with other political and human rights organisations in the effort to seek a change in the system of governance in Bhutan by establishing democracy under Constitutional Monarchy. Section 31(a) of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962 prohibits the extradition of anyone if the offence in respect of which his extradition is sought is of a political character or if he is sought to be punished for an offence of political character.

    • The political character of both groups of charges is evident from the documents, which evidences that until the formation of the Druk National Congress in 1994, there were no allegation against Shri Dorji and that all the charges, including those of pre-1991, have been fabricated after 1994. The Foreigners' Regional Registration Office, responsible for his initial arrest and detention, has confirmed Shri Dorji as a political personality by noting in its order, dated May 17,1997, that "according to the MEA/MHA, Shri Dorji is the Chairman of the United Front for Democracy in Bhutan, whose avowed aim is the seek a change in the system of governance in that country".

    • The mala fide nature of the extradition request and the extradition proceeding against Shri Dorji is evident from the fact that he was residing in Nepal for almost 6 years after coming to Nepal in 1991, and despite this, his extradition is sought from India, where he has never lived.

  5. The letter from the Ministry of External Affairs to the Ministry of Home Affairs dated, April 17, 1997, clarifies that when Shri Dorji was arrested, the existing arrangement for extradition between India and Bhutan are governed by para 1 of Article 8 of the treaty between India and Bhutan, 1949, yet he is now being tried retrospectively under the new Extradition Agreement. The legality of the new Extradition Agreement between the two countries notified on May 21, 1997 is questionable and suffers from a lacuna in that the prima facie does not apply. As per this agreement, Bhutan, a non-Commonwealth country, to which the provisions of Chapter II of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962 always applied, is now subject to the provisions of Chapter III. Chapter III applies only to Commonwealth countries with a common, essentially-the-same law and a summary procedure for the extradition and trial of fugitive criminals. This change from Chapter II to Chapter III is inconsistent with the laws guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution of India and the provisions of this agreement are inconsistent with Articles 53 and 71 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969. It is also significant to note that although there existed an extradition treaty between the two countries since 1949, no request for the surrender of any Bhutanese subject has ever been received by India from Bhutan and Shri Dorji's is the first such case. It is clear that this new agreement, notified a month after Shri Dorji was arrested for extradition, was executed as it seemed expedient to apply the provisions of Chapter III of the Indian Extradition Act to facilitate the extradition of Shri Dorji.

  6. Amongst the numerous documents available on Bhutan's human rights record, the first report of the SAARC Jurist Mission to Bhutan, titled "The Bhutan Tragedy, when will it end", Amnesty International's report on Bhutan titled "crackdown on the 'anti-nationals' in the East" and the US State Department's Country report on human rights, show that Bhutan has been continuously indulging in atrocities against its citizens and gross violations of human rights. The reports also show that Bhutan has no proper legal system, and that its laws are overtly discriminatory, prohibiting any opposition to the government, denying fair public trails and awarding severest punishment for such "offences".

  7. Various Indian and international organisations and eminent individuals, including freedom fighters, and political and social personalities, have come out in support of Shri Dorji, demanding the withdrawal of his extradition case and his release. The media too has been keenly following the events (see booklet titled "Selections from the Press, Reports & Letters").

  8. The following provisions of Indian and International Instruments to which India and/or Bhutan are/is a party and hence bound by the same, are of crucial significance and cannot be overlooked:

    • Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India,

    • Sections 29 and 31 of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962,

    • Articles 5, 12, 14 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948,

    • Articles 7, 17 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1996,

    • Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984,

    • Article 8 of the UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, 1992,

    • Principle 5 of the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions,

    • Article 25 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966,

    • Articles 53 and 71 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969,

    • j) Article 33 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951.

  9. Shri Dorji was finally released on bail on July 14, 1998. The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi, in-charge of the case, cited the political nature of the charges and evidence of its fabrication, as being the basis of his judgment dated 2.6.98, ordering the release of Mr. Dorji on bail, pending the final outcome of the extradition proceedings.

  10. It has been over 16 months thereafter, but Shri Dorji's extradition case is in a limbo and has not made any progress since his bail and as a result he is still subject to unjust treatment and harassment.

  11. Article 29 of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962 confers power on the Central Government to discharge any person, if it appears to it that by reason of the trivial nature of the case or by reason of the application for the surrender or return not being made in good faith or in the interest of justice or for political reasons or otherwise, it is unjust or inexpedient to surrender or return anyone sought for extradition, it may, by order at any time stay any proceedings under this Act and direct any warrant issued or endorsed under this Act to be cancelled and the person for whose arrest the warrant has been used or endorsed to be discharged.

In the light of the above, it is appealed that the error committed be urgently reviewed and redressed, and suitable initiative be taken to withdraw the extradition case against Shri Dorji and that he be immediately set at liberty. That the question of Shri Dorji's extradition case and the Bhutanese movement for the establishment of Democracy in Bhutan under Constitutional Monarchy be raised in all forums in India, in order to address this issue in a manner that it deserves in the largest democracy in the world and that which will do justice to India's Constitutional commitments. Specially in view of the complications that are evolving in the entire region as a result of the stalemate in resolving the Bhutanese crisis.

 

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