Court reminds defendants not to rebut on the legitimacy of the ACC prosecuting the case

The Trongsa dzongkhag court conducted the preliminary hearing on the alleged illegal land transaction case in Trongsa yesterday. The court read out the charges by the prosecutor, Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) to the 10 defendants.

There are four charges of forgery against Lhab Dorji, the then Trongsa dzongdag and the prime accused.

The ACC made three charges against him on official misconduct and a charge for execution of documents through deception.

Lhab Dorji’s wife, Karma Tshetim Dolma, is the second prime accused and faces four charges of forgery and solicitation each and an offense related to a witness.

Former Drakteng gup, Tenzin faces four forgery and three deceptive charges and a charge of solicitation.

Ugyen Tenzin, who was the then Drangpon, is also charged for forgery.

Phuntsho, who was the then Nubi gup is charged for forgery while Narayan Dengal is charged for aiding and abetting the crime and for official misconduct.

The other four accused charged for official misconduct are Kezang Nima, who was a surveyor of the National Land Commission, Wangchula and Kinleyla who served as tshogpas and Tashi Penden who was also the then Nubi gup.

The ACC, in their 60-page petition submitted to the court to return to the state, the land at Thumang where Karma Tshetim Dolma had  constructed a guesthouse. The ACC requested the court to order Karma Tshetim Dema to remove the structures at her own cost.

The petition also asked the court to cancel the transfer of land to Karma Tshetim Dolma’s name from the main landowner’s and that the landowners be compensated.

The ACC submitted that the land registered in Karma Tshetim Dolma’s name also be nullified since the land was already registered under the education ministry.

The court reminded the defendants to not rebut on the legitimacy of the ACC prosecuting the case since section 128.3 is constitutional and that it also has the Supreme Court’s interpretation on this aspect.

The next hearing will be held on June 1 where the defendants will rebut the charges.

The case is related to the land acquisition by the education ministry at Taktse in Trongsa for the construction of the College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS) sometime in the early 2000s. The case surfaced after a landowner, Gyalmo, complained to the ACC that she did not sell her land to Karma Tshetim Dolma. Gyalmo filed a case against Karma Tshetim Dolma with the Trongsa court in 2011 but was dismissed, stating that the same court adjudicated the matter before.

The ACC forwarded its findings to the OAG on July 17, 2015 after finding a prima facie of illegal transactions of land that were listed under Thram No 514 of the education ministry, allocation of land substitution and regularisations of excess lands, which are in direct relation to the land acquisitions for the establishment of CLCS.

The OAG dismissed the case, stating they did not find merit to initiate criminal proceedings. OAG stated that the alleged transactions were caused due to administrative lapses of the state authorities and the failure of few individuals who had passed away before the ACC investigation.

The ACC is prosecuting the case as per section 128.3 of the ACC Act.

Nima Wangdi | Trongsa