Full or Partial Plea of Guilty

Ever since I joined the law school, I was taught to appreciate the good laws and criticize the bad written laws. However, many Bhutanese legislations deserve appreciation as well as criticism. In this piece of writing, I do not intend to incorporate each and every legislative flaws rather focus on Chapter 39 of the Bhutan Civil and Criminal Procedure Code.

Chapter 39 provides for Full or Partial Please of Guilty or Nolo Contendere.

Section 195.5 states that “if the plea of Nolo Contendere is accepted, the Court may proceed to award judgment and sentencing in accordance with the law”.

Section 196 provides that “if the defendant pleads not guilty to one or more of the charges levelled, the Court shall set a date for trial granting sufficient time as required to enable the prosecution and defence to prepare adequately”.

Section 196.1 states that “the court following the completion of the full trial shall pronounce sentence on an element, to which the accused pleads guilty of Nolo Contendere”.

After analyzing these provisions, I can’t stop asking a question: “What does Section 196.1 provides for”? It provides no sentence for the accused for a charge which he/she has not pleaded guilty. In other words, the provision mandate the courts to pronounce sentence on an element to which the accused has pleaded guilty of Nolo Contendere, and there is no question of pronouncing sentence based on the proven guilty of which the accused has not pleaded guilty.

The question is: if the court is to pronounce sentence based on the element of which the accused has pleaded guilty, why the court need to conduct full trial for a charge that is not pleaded guilty? I find no reason at all.

My interpretation may be incorrect, but I feel the provision itself is problematic. Please share your thoughts!


2 thoughts on “Full or Partial Plea of Guilty

  1. Interpretation is a process and result is numerous. I will try to offer my interpretation of the provisions.
    I have no authorities to strengthen my views. But if I may interpret the wordings of the provision:
    Section 195 contains rules relating to pleading of guilt by an accused and thereby warranting no full trial. In such cases, section 195.5 lays down the procedures and sentencing guidelines for the Court to follow upon its acceptance of guilt pleaded by an accused.
    Section 196 grants choice for an accuse to plea guilty to a charge or whole set of charges. In cases where an accused pleads guilty only to a charge from a set of charges, the case then proceeds to full trial. Upon completion of full trial, and in cases where the rest of the charges cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt, section 196.1 mandates the Court to sentence an accused to the extent of charges pleaded guilty. This does not confuse the sentencing guidelines contained in Procedure Code because according to section 207 “sentencing may be passed only with regard to the element of the charge where guilt beyond reasonable doubt has been proven to the full satisfaction of the Court”. In other words, procedure relating to full trial and the sentencing guidelines and policy for the charges not pleaded guilty do not fall under chapter 39 of the Code.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Karma, I was interpreting the same as you did, however, I was not fully satisfied with my own interpretation.

    As you said, interpretation process has numerous result, and of course, I understand that procedure relating to full trial and sentencing for the charge relating to the charges of ‘not guilty’ does not fall under Chapter 39 of the Code. But I am still confused. Do we still require Section 196.1 because we already has Section 195.5 which states that “if the plea of Nolo Contendere is accepted, the Court may proceed to award judgment and sentencing in accordance with the law”.


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