Rinzin Wangchuk & Phub Dem

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is reviewing allegations of illegal registration of state land, deceptive practices, and favouritism reported in complaints against the former Paro Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) Thrizin, who was recently re-elected as the Dopshari gup.

The Commission also fielded a team to Paro to gather more information, which both parties confirmed. “It is a process to evaluate whether the case or complaint registered with the Commission merits investigation or not,” an ACC official said.

The ACC began reviewing the case after a walk-in complainant alleged that the gup dishonoured the High Court’s judgment and abused administrative power, on March 9 of last year.

It was alleged that the former Thrizin assisted in registering 35 decimals of land, which was declared state land by the High Court, in one Sonam Tobgay’s name in Nashikha, Jangsa village.

According to the complainant, the disputed land was actually omitted from the thram for three decades although it was cultivated actively by a farmer, Choden.


The land in question

The complainant stated that the land was actually exchanged between Choden and Sonam Tobgay in the 1970s for the convenience of farming. Sonam Tobgay had given around 50 decimals of land to Choden, but did not have thram or legitimate registered landholding.

Choden, who had planted apple trees, wanted to transfer the land in her name but Sonam Tobgay kept making excuses and refused to transfer it for over 30 years. Only in 2010 during a resurvey did Choden find that the land had no thram.

Choden then sued Sonam Tobgay in the Paro dzongkhag court and later appealed to the High Court (HC), which declared the land as government land in 2013, as per the Land Act 2007. The HC ruling, however, let Choden harvest the apples because she had planted them.

Both Choden and Sonam Tobgay applied for kidu for that particular land. The National Land Commission (NLC) secretary made it clear that neither party was eligible for kidu, since it was state land.

Choden then applied for the thram-less land as a replacement for her deficit land during a resurvey. She also requested a recommendation from the Thrizin, but the Thrizin denied it, saying it was government land.

The complainant, however, alleged that in 2019 when the NLC was awarding Lag Thram to the people of Paro, the former Thrizin lied and recommended the land for Sonam Tobgay, stating that land was omitted from thram and was cultivated actively by Sonam Tobgay. “Based on Thrizin’s false recommendation, the NLC had given thram to Sonam Tobgay – “land type apple,” the letter to ACC stated. “Thrizin was aware of this case and the court’s ruling but paid no mind to the HC’s decision.”


Other allegations

The former Thrizin was also accused of re-registering 2.320 acres of sokshing as kamzhing (dry land) from Lhashing Tobtokha, also in Jangsa, in his aunt’s thram after the resurvey in 2010.

In the early 1980s-1990s, it was alleged that his aunt had illegally managed to register the state land, 2.90 acres of Sokshing from Jachu Tshaykhar and 1.46 acres from Lhashing Tobtokha in her thram and made various conversions. Later, after a court case with the community, the land was reinstated as Sokshing by the HC in 1999.

It was also alleged that Thrizin, in collusion with the Paro land resurvey team, converted his sister’s sokshing (State land) of 0.856 acre into land type ‘apple’ and awarded thram. “There were many genuine cases related to Changra Sokshing in Paro but the gup would not help to explain or recommend them to the NLC team,” stated the complaint letter. “But in his own sister’s case, he made a special recommendation which was not even true and got the thram.”

Baseless accusations: former Thrizin

Refuting the allegations, the former Thrizin said that the allegations were untrue and baseless.

On the conversion of Sokshing of 85.6 decimal of land into an apple orchard land type for his sister, he said that it was ancestral land and the family had been growing apples. However, he said that the thram had somehow dropped, and it was re-surveyed in 2010 as per the nationwide cadastral resurvey guidelines.

While verifying the land in 2019, he said that he declared a conflict of interest and was not involved in the gewog grievance committee, as he was the gup. He said that his sister had thram from 1963 and 1971, adding that his sister has nine acres of dry land. Except for 85.6 decimals, the other land remained uncultivated and was not surveyed in 2010.

The former Thrizin said Sonam Tobgay gave another plot of land to Choden as a substitute after the court ruled that he doesn’t have a thram for the land.

He said that after getting the land replacement, Choden wrote to concerned authorities to give the land to her, as she was already cultivating the land.

He said that Sonam Tobgay also wrote to the authorities with evidence of land registration from the 1960s, explaining that his land registration was dropped from the thram and requested to resurvey it.

In 2019 the gewog dispute settlement committee forwarded Sonam Tobgay’s case to the Secretary of the NLC. After verification by a committee from the NLC, it said that the land belonged to Sonam Tobgay and not Choden, as she had already received a replacement.  

Concerning his involvement in the Lhashing Tobtokha land case, he said that the allegation was baseless and denied his involvement. The woman in question received the land as kidu in 2012, and he became gup only in 2016. “The complainant assumed that she received the land only in 2019, dragging me into the case unnecessarily.”

Meanwhile, ACC officials said that complaints the ACC received against nine former gups have qualified for full-fledged investigation, which will begin soon.

The ACC received 451 complaints from January 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. On average, around 25 complaints were received a month, which is 24 percent less as compared to 2019. The decrease in the monthly average, according to ACC’s annual report 2020-2021, may be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic, the series of lockdowns, and related restrictions.

Out of the 451 complaints received, 241 or 53.4 percent complaints were from anonymous sources and the remaining were from known sources. Of the total, 42 complaints qualified for investigation.