New CJ: Old wine in new bottle

Published on Dec 20 2009 // Main News

December 20, 2009: King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk has appointed a long-serving High Court chief, having no certification on legal studies, Sonam Tobgye as the new Chief Justice of the country.

RECLAIMING SAME TITLE: new Chief Justice SOnam Tobgye

RECLAIMING SAME TITLE: new Chief Justice SOnam Tobgye

The six-member Royal Commission formed on November 19 recommended former chief justice of the High Court of Bhutan as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the head of the Bhutanese judiciary.

The month-long deliberations among the commissioners culminated into forwarding this king-favorite man for the top job.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the honor conferred, by the confidence bestowed by the royal commission and support and good wishes of the people,” said Tobgye after being given a new title.

He said that he will now work on nominations in Supreme Court, High Court and district courts for faster delivery of justice.

With his nomination, the National Judiciary Commission has come into existence. However, it would be a daunting task for selecting new justices under his single-man leadership.

According to the constitution (Article 21), the Chief Justice of Bhutan will serve a term of five years or until the age of 65, whichever occurs earlier.

Tobgye, 60, appointed as the chief justice right after the royal government unveiled plans for crackdown in southern Bhutan in 1991, retired from service November 14. Though laws regard him to serve in the capacity of High Court chief for another five years, his retirement was informally a scheduled plan to provide him another honorary position.

The nomination of Tobgye for the new responsibility has visualized a new era for Bhutan. Kipchu Namgyal was intelligence chief in 1992, Tobgye was chief justice and Jigmi Thinely was home secretary. Now these three most brutal suppressers lead three highest institutions of the democratic Bhutan – police, judiciary and executive.