Rinzin Wangchuk 

The Anti-Corruption Commission ACC) has implicated the Punakha Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) thrizin, who is the gup of Shelngana gewog, and four individuals in an alleged State land encroachment case.

The case dates back to 2011 and involves the thrizin’s wife, two former gewog land tshogpas and a surveyor.

In its investigation report forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) on June 30 for prosecution, ACC reportedly implicated Shelngana Gup Samten Phuntsho of allegedly misusing his power to encroach 80 decimals of State land and registering it in his wife’s name.

ACC officials began investigation in 2019 after the commission received a complaint against the  gup alleging that he had surveyed and registered State land in his wife’s name on the pretext of surveying an omitted land reflected in her chagzhag thram, legitimate land ownership certificate. It happened during the National Cadastral Resurvey programme (NCRP) in 2011.

The allegation is that the plot in question reflected in the chagzhag thram was already sold to another individual.

ACC’s investigation revealed that the incumbent gup had submitted an application on February 27, 2011 addressed to the surveyor stating that 80-decimal wetland plot called ‘Kuchey Parkha Damlekna’ reflected in the thram number 152 of his wife existed but was not included in the map, although the plot was never surveyed during the detailed survey of 1991 and New Sa-Thram Compilation (NSC) survey in 2000.

The commission stated that since the plot could not be identified on ground, it was not reflected in any of the maps prior to NCRP in 2011. Moreover, the commission also found an application submitted to National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS) on July 8, 2000 by the previous person who held the same thram number requesting the plot to be removed from his thram as it could not be found.

However, during the NCRP in Punakha, Gup Samten Phuntsho, who has been the gup of the gewog since 2004, wrote on behalf of his wife, and submitted an application claiming that the alleged plot exists but had been omitted from the map. He then, according to the ACC report, endorsed the application in the capacity of the gup along with the two sai (land) tshogpas. NCRP surveyor then surveyed the plot shown by the land owner’s representative, the gup himself. He had identified a State land near their family’s land as ‘Kuchey Parkha Damlekna’.

The investigation revealed that the plot identified on a slope with overgrown trees surrounded by State land had no attributes of ever being an irrigated wetland, but that was ignored by the surveyor and the two sai tshogpas. They had signed the endorsement form, thereby endorsing the location and the boundary of the plot BJM-2912 on a State land which was used as a grazing area for the cattle of local residents.

Since plot BJM-2912 was surrounded by State land with no adjoining neighbours, there were no disputes related to the plot. The plot had been reinstated in thram No 152 directly during the NCRP survey.

The ACC recommended the OAG to charge the incumbent gup of official misconduct for knowingly endorsing the application and showing a State land as their omitted land. The commission wrote that his wife should be charged for encroachment and registering the State land in her name, and the other three for aiding and abetting. ACC also requested the state prosecutor to reinstate plot BJM-2912 to its original status as a State land.

The commission stated that as a local authority they had to ascertain or verify the omitted plots, so that only the genuine omitted plots were surveyed at their genuine location. “However, they had intentionally endorsed the application and the boundary of the plot BJM-2912 to benefit gup’s wife,” a source said.

Similarly, the surveyor had aided in the encroachment of State land by surveying an omitted plot, which had exceeded five years and had failed to conduct due diligence even after the identified plot was on a slope with no attributes of ever being irrigated.

The ACC also issued a freeze notice yesterday for the plot BJM-2912 under thram No 152 against any transaction and development activities with immediate effect.

Edited by Tshering Palden