The story about Bhutanese absconding from the country due to several factors is not new. Most are people involved in monetary cases with either financial institutions (FIs) or individuals.
However, there is another group who has done the same; those arrested and produced by the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) to court, granted bail by the judiciary as per the country’s laws, but who then disappear. From 2022 till March 2023, the RBP has recorded 11 such cases.
The RBP’s latest data shows this has happened from six police stations in the country, Thimphu police station recorded the highest with five individuals, followed by two individuals in Punakha police station and one individual each from Gelephu, Bumthang, Lhuentse and Norbugang police stations.
The Deputy Chief of RBP, Crime and Operations Branch Division, Colonel Passang said that most of the above 11 are involved in criminal related cases.
Colonel Passang shared that in criminal related cases, the police send the case to the court and with the due law process the court grants bail to individuals on the grounds that a person will be available or report to the police or court as and when required during the course of the investigation or trial.
“The person who is in bail refuses to come to the court and that is where the court gives the arrest warrant to the police to look for and arrest the person,” the deputy chief said, adding that the police has to again look for the person which also leads to the delay of trials.
The Colonel shared that it is very challenging for them to track the runaway bailed persons. However with an order from the court, the police collect the list of the runaway bailed person and then distribute the name list in the CPMS and different police station.
“The reasons those on bail escape are mostly those involved in monetary cases and some are those who think that they will definitely get convicted of the cases,” the Colonel said, adding that it is in the nature of human beings to think and act so.
Colonel Passang shared that when the police arrests a person and charge sheets them, it is in the hands of the judiciary to either detain them or grant bail. “If the individual is suspicious and a repeated offender, it is important to make a proper decision on bailing a person as per the characters of that particular individual in the case which will help to reduce such cases the RBP having to look out again for persons who were already arrested,” Colonel Passang said.
He shared that the RBP can rather keep those accused in detention till the case is over. “If they need the person till the case ends then they can tell us to detain the person and similarly if the court cannot guarantee that the person would report back to the court than they should not grant bail,” he said.
Meanwhile, the court determines whether to grant bail and the bail amounts after considering the severity of the charges, suspect’s past criminal records, likelihood of fights, potential threat posted to civil society followed by suspect’s age and physical or mental health conditions and views of the victim or aggrieved persons.
Similarly, a person who is released on bail should be available to the police of court as and when required during the course of the investigation or trial, and must remain within the limits of any particular areas as prescribed in the bail order. They must also abstain from making any inducement, threat or promise directly or indirectly to a person acquainted with the facts of the case as to dissuade the person from disclosing such facts to the courts or police.
On the possibility of using Interpol, Colonel Passang said that the function of the Interpol is to look after international crime, while most of the cases in the country; especially the ones who have absconded after availing bail are not of such a nature.
Meanwhile, observers agree with what Colonel Passang has to say. “If I owe about Nu 1mn to a person and know that I will not be able to pay it; after and if I am granted bail, I will try to leave the country. Similarly, if I know that I will definitely be convicted, I would do the same,” Sonam Dorji, a resident of Thimphu said.
According to Sonam, there should be a close coordination between the judiciary and the RBP. “I am not really aware if there is or not. But once a person or persons are granted bail the judiciary should inform the RBP and then the RBP can keep the person(s) in the loop. This could prevent people from absconding,” he said.
The paper also learned that there are Bhutanese (who do not fall in the 11 listed above) who have absconded mainly because of monetary cases. Several are said to be in Nepal and they even meet Bhutanese who frequent Nepal. “I do not know the status as of now. But a decade or so back, people who were addicted to gambling and so owed a lot of money to individuals absconded. Of late, I have also heard of a real estate owner who has done the same,”Tandin, working in the construction industry said.
Sherab Dorji from Thimphu