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Bumthang District Court dismissed OAG’s child trafficking charges

Kipchu, Bumthang.
Aug 24, 2019

The Bumthang District Court dismissed a child trafficking allegation made against a 31-year-old woman by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

The court instead fined the woman who is from Punakha; for Illegal Transportation of an 8-year-old Indian child and negligence of the child after she suffered grave injuries while she was staying with the defendant. The court passed the judgment on Wednesday.

The district court amended the child trafficking accusation to Illegal Transportation of a Foreigner due to lack of enough evidence of exploitation. The woman who worked with the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) office in Bumthang was, therefore, charged a fine of Nu 9,900 (nine thousand nine hundred) in accordance with the Immigration Act of Bhutan. The defendant admitted to the court that she didn’t know the child was an Indian national while she brought her for adoption at Bumthang. The OAG accused the woman of trafficking the child from across the border through Gelegphu in 2016.  Witnesses submitted to the court that the child was cared for and given as much importance as the woman’s own children while the child was under her custody.

The case first surfaced in April, last year when the Indian child was admitted to Wangduecholing Hospital in Bumthang with serious injuries and infections on her body. The doctor then reported the case to police on suspicion of battery. The child was then said to have been kept under the custody of Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW) and National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) focal persons in Bumthang before she was taken to a place of safety in Thimphu.

The child confessed to NCWC officials in Thimphu that the woman battered and pushed her into fire inflicting serious injuries and burns on her body. However, as proof beyond reasonable doubt of the woman pushing the child into the fire couldn’t be established during the trial, the court instead penalized the woman with a fine of Nu 1,80,000 (one hundred eighty thousand) for neglecting the child’s health while she was inflicted with injuries and infections. Moreover, one of the defendant’s witnesses claimed that while he was visiting the woman’s home, he heard a child crying and found out that it was the victim who fell into a hot-stone bath stove, accidentally.  The big toe of the child’s left leg had to be later amputated due to infections.

Meanwhile, the victim is said to be with her parents in India.

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