Both plaintiff and defendants appeal to High Court

Rinzin Wangchuk 

Twenty-eight archers and a plaintiff appealed to the High Court (HC) last week after the Wangduephodrang dzongkhag court sentenced them to seven months each in prison for the illegal construction of an archery range and septic tank on State land in  Gase Tshogom gewog.

The court found both plaintiff and defendants guilty of encroaching 386 decimal of the State land and made archery range and constructing a septic tank illegally at Hingchung Lum sometime in 2017.  The court, however, gave them an option to pay thrimthue of Nu 26,250 each in lieu of imprisonment.

All the defendants (archers) appealed directly to the HC while the former gup of Gase Tshogom, Kuenley Gyeltshen, who is the plaintiff in the case, submitted his appeal letter through the dzongkhag court on October 7.  “We will forward his appeal case to the HC on October 10,” a court official said.

The lower court passed the judgment on September 22.

The court ruling stated that both parties discussed and agreed to construct an archery range on State land in Hingchung Lum when Kuenley Gyeltshen was the gup of Gase Tshogom. The archery range falls below the plaintiff’s house.

They used an excavator to construct the archery range and in order to protect Kuenley Gyeltshen’s house in future, archers agreed to construct a retaining wall and use a new septic tank.

The plaintiff did not dismantle his toilet and the archers refused to construct the retaining wall. The former gup filed a case against the archers in 2020. However, the Wangdue court ordered him to dismantle the old toilet which was causing inconvenience to the archers and to use the new one. Then the gup appealed to the High Court which order the Wangdue court to reopen the case in April 2021.

The following month, Wangdue court began hearing the new case.

Kuenley Gyeltshen submitted that a study by the  Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association found that the archery range was unsafe. It was located near a road, electric lines and a school.

He claimed that the archers did not obtain clearance from the association and that the incumbent gup also wrote to the archers not to use the place. However, they refused to comply.

The defendants said that the plaintiff was equally involved in the construction of the range. The defendants’ representative challenged if BIGSA could issue such letters.

The drangpon led a team of officials from the dzongkhag including the land registration officer for a site visit and found that there were no legal lease documents. Both parties had encroached into the State land knowingly.

The court ruled that the plaintiff cannot use the new toilet built with the contribution from the archers. However, it stated that there is no need to refund the amount because whatever they had done was due to contributory negligence.