The 15th annual Moenlam Chhenmo in Trashi Yangtse presided over by Gyalse Trulku Jigme Tenzin Wangpo concluded today.
Hundreds of people attended the three- day prayer ceremony. It was the first prayer ceremony to be presided over by Gyalse Trulku.
From Friday this week, Gyalse Trulku will be presiding over the Baza Guru Dungdrup at Chorten Kora in Trashi Yangtse.
Three accused in the alleged Trongsa land scam case turned approvers during the two-day witness hearing in the district court, which ended yesterday.
An approver is a person who confesses to committing a crime and gives evidence against his or her accomplices.
The former Nubi Gup Tashi Penden and two former village tshogpas, Kinleyla and Wangchukla were charged for official misconduct in the alleged illegal land transaction case against former Trongsa Dzongda Lhap Dorji and his wife.
During the National Cadastral Resurvey Program (NCRP) in 2010, one of the prime accused Karma Tshetim Dolma, the wife of former Dzongda, had fraudulently registered one additional plot measuring 1.933 acres as GY plot on the already registered substitute land. And substitute land is not eligible for excess government land registration.
The three accused had knowingly endorsed the excess land surveyed and falsely recorded as GY plot.
The three accused are now requesting the court to pardon them after turning into approver according to section 66 of the Penal Court of Bhutan.
The section states a court in order to obtain evidence and testimony against another suspect for the same or a different crime, which is of serious nature may, tender pardon to the defendant incriminated on the same or different offence, allow the defendant to be sentenced for a lesser crime or award the defendant a lesser punishment for the offence charged.
The three are among the ten accused in the alleged land scam case reported to have taken more than a decade ago.
The case concerns the illegal acquisition of 4.73 acres of land at Thumgang under Nubi Gewog in Trongsa by Karma Tshetim Dolma. It also involves the illegal acquisition of another 2.77 acres of land in Taktse.
The case came under Anti-Corruption Commission’s scanner only in 2011 after the landowner Gyalmo from Taktse lodged a complaint to the ACC stating that she did not sell the land to Karma Tshetim Dolma.
The alleged incident took place between 2005 to 2006 when the land acquisition from Taktse, Eusa and Tashidingkha village happened for the establishment of the Institute of Language and Cultural Studies.
The preliminary hearing of the case was conducted on April 20 last year. The court conducted eighteen hearings as of now.
Meanwhile, the court received an order from the Supreme Court to expedite the case.
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Social media has become part of our lives with a growing number of people using the medium in the country. However, experts say there is a lack of social media literacy which often leads to issues related to irresponsible and inappropriate use.
In a recent case, three women were arrested for battery. The video of the incident went viral on Facebook and Wechat. While the police are looking for the person behind the post, many raised brows questioning if it is ethically right for someone to make a personal matter public?
But this is not an isolated case. There is a history of defamation, circulation of fake news and other inappropriate usages of social media in Bhutan. In fact, technology, as always, has moved faster than the ability of people to understand its impact.
“I am also one of the active social media users like facebook. I write and share everything I like. But I am also not aware when it comes to dos and don’ts while using social media,”Sanga Chophel said.
“Social media has many positive impacts but people don’t use it properly. If they use it properly I think it is good and also I feel there is a need for certain regulations,” Ramesh Rai said.
“Since many are not aware of responsible use of social media, they share photos and videos without respecting others’ privacy,” Lam Phuntsho said
The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD), a civil society organisation, provides training on News and Media Literacy to students, monks and nuns among others. According to its Executive Director, Bhutanese are not prepared to use social media properly.
“We find that many of us are very reactive to social media to the use of phones, the internet which basically just learn how to use it technically but we are not as conscious as the impact of the free and open use,” Siok Sian Dorji, the Executive Director of BCMD, said.
“We have seen bullying and inappropriate videos being shared openly and getting everybody into trouble and families they stress. So these are things that show that we need more and greater awareness of social media literacy.”
From a legal perspective, acts of defamation, breach of privacy and creating civil unrest through fake news are punishable under the Penal Code of Bhutan.
“Since it is the written or printed form it should be the purview of libel. Under the section of libel, a person who is convicted for libel shall be imprisoned for the minimum of three years to the maximum of five years and below with compensation,” Yeshey Wangdi, an advocate with Nyinda Legal Consultancy in Thimphu, said.
“In the process of libel, if there any matter of murder, armed robbery so the convicted person will be liable for fourth-degree felony. Whereas in absence of such murder etc the person who is convicted for libel should be imprisoned for a minimum of one month to a maximum of one year and below.”
Wechat, WhatsApp and Facebook are among the widely used social media sites in the country today.
Internet charges in Bhutan are higher compared to other countries. And with the government’s flagship programme to digitalize services in every office, it might further increase the internet cost.
An official from the Ministry of Information and Communications said while the charge for data is comparable but leased line charges in the country are a bit higher than other countries.
At present, Bhutan Telecom charge for a leased line is Nu 4,500 per Mbps and TashiCell charges Nu 4,500 ngultrum for Standard and Nu 8,500 per Mbps for premium.
The ministry said the higher charge is due to higher international connection charges.
With many services going online through G2C, the ministry targets to bring down the internet cost to Nu 1,500 ngultrum per Mbps by the end of this five-year plan.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering informed the media that the government is discussing to implement the flagship programme to digitalize services.
“We will attempt to digitalize everything but we all know it will not happen, that is not possible. But wherever it is relevant, wherever it is possible, wherever affordable, we will do. In that way, internet cost will also come down. Indirectly paying little higher but if that adds to the efficiency of a system, we are actually indirectly covering the cost.”
The prime minister also said the digitalization will help in keeping track of every Bhutanese using the services online. However, in the initial phase it is expected to be implemented for bill and tax payment system and in hospitals for patient record keeping.
“It will come with a cost but at the end of the day, a society, a country at large will benefit from this package. But as of now, we will look into the cost of the internet. We will make sure that it is affordable and at the same time, we cannot just lower the cost and not reap benefits from the package,” Prime Minister added.
Today, Bhutan Telecom, TashiCell, NANO and DRUKCOM are the registered internet service providers in the country.