Is Tobacco Act of Bhutan (even the amended one) draconian and heartless, especially to babies and small children?
Judges say their hands are tied by the lawmakers without flexibility when it comes to Tobacco cases, where every Tobacco case, big or small, is designed to be an open and shut case with minimum sentencing of fourth degree “felony,” i.e. mandatory 3 years imprisonment. “Felony!” – that is in the same category as murder, rape, etc., the most heinous crimes.
Here are some sample cases of live-destroying impacts of Tobacco Act on everyday common citizens (true stories):
- A breast-feeding poor mother in Thimphu has been sentenced to 3 years mandatory imprisonment. Several times every day her baby is brought at the prison gate to breastfeed for 15 minutes. For the next 3 years, this less fortunate baby will see prison gate as synonymous to mother. A heartbreaking but true story – Tobacco Act is destroying two lives in one go.
- A breast-feeding poor mother in Dagana has been sentenced to 3 years mandatory imprisonment. Her baby is not even reaching the prison gate every day, as there’s no reliable or able person to bring the baby to the Tobacco gate every day. We have no clue how this future citizen of Bhutan will ever grow up. Another heartbreaking but true story – Tobacco Act is destroying two lives in one go.
- A victim of domestic violence and divorcee single mother with two small school going children, who also has to look after her 80 years old her ailing mother, has just been sentenced to 3 years mandatory imprisonment by the Thimphu District Court (it seems Thimphu district court judge tried his best to save her on humanitarian ground but the draconian Tobacco Act left no room of flexibility below the fourth degree “felony” sentencing).
This case is currently in the High Court on appeal ground and the VERDICT IS YET TO BE OUT. Hanging in this verdict is the fate of this poor woman, her two small school going children, and her ailing old mother. Will Tobacco Act destroy 4 lives in one go? Or will the verdict be different?
God save Bhutan!
It is simply heartbreaking. I cannot sleep – an image of a mother having to breastfeed her baby at the prison gate haunts me again and again and again.
What about you?
By Nima Tshering (http://www.facebook.com/goodnima)