In the on-going state land encroachment case, Chang Gup Kanjur, sought the court’s intervention and requested documents as a part of discovery process to defend charges against him in connection with the fraudulent registration and encroachment of 3.72 acres of community pasture (Tsamdro) land in Chang Debsi, Thimphu.

He submitted his request in writing before the criminal bench of Thimphu district court on November 20 as per sections 43 and 44 of the Civil and Criminal procedure Code (CCPC). It states that the party may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, relevant to a specific claim or defense in an action.

The court grants discovery to make parties aware of the witnesses and evidences to be presented at trial proceedings. CCPA states that the purpose of discovery is to avoid unnecessary proceedings as to undisputed facts, aid in formulating issues and freeze testimony so as to prevent perjury.

Gup Kanjur said that he submitted before the court during the preliminary hearing on November 9 to order relevant authorities to share documents with him so that he could rebut accordingly against the charges framed by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). A court official said that the defendant was granted the benefit of the doubt and asked him to submit the request in writing.

OAG charged Gup Kanjur on two counts of forgery, and one each for deceptive practice, illegal encroachment and transaction of government land and official misconduct.

The defendant is charged for forging original map of 1988 to survey two plots from the community pasture land in Debsi. He is also alleged to have forged Kapa thram, field document containing details pertaining to land holding and total acreage.  During the survey in 2000, it was found that a plot named Dzomdrak Choetenjab and Chakazhing was recorded in the printed Kapa Thram but plot and sheet numbers did not reflected the plot.

The Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) investigation from September 19 to December 30, 2016 found that the Debsi community owned 388.6 acres of pastureland in Kumdra and Seudrak. There were two plots – Chakazhing and Dzomdrak Choetenjab – measuring 90 decimals and 2.82 acres respectively, belonging to Kanjur’s mother, Tenzin. Later, these two plots were fragmented and sold to 19 individuals.

The investigation determined that sometime between 2000 and 2005, the defendant had fraudulently registered these two plots as tsamdro on his mother’s name. The OAG also charged him for inflating the acreage from 15 decimals to 2.82 acres and, from six decimals to 90 decimals, taking advantage of the excess land claim being allowed at that time.

The OAG in its submission to court stated that the chain of evidence proved that the plot Dzomdrak Choetenjab was actually located in Punakha and already declared a land in Punakha during the separation of Thed-Thimphu in mid 1980s. Survey records proved that the landowner was unable to locate this plot during the 1988 survey. Although Tenzin had a plot called Chakazhing in her old chazhag thram, the actual location was found to be near Babesa, not at Debsi where Kanjur with intention to encroach government land, had deceptively claimed and measured as his mother’s land.

During investigation, both Gup Kanjur and Tenzin admitted that the two plots in question were not originally located there. The boundary of the community tsamdro as described in the tsamdro thram, clearly shows that the tsamdro had been encroached.

The investigation also determined that in trying to conceal and make it appear on official records that these plots originally existed in Debsi and were surveyed in 1988, the defendant had forged and tampered the detail survey map, the New Sathram Compilation (NSC) field Kapa form and falsified the community’s clearance.

The OAG charged Gup Kanjur for deception as he had prepared the no objection letter (NoC) from the public of Debsi by himself and submitted to the land record office. The letter stated that these signatories have no objection in measuring Tenzin’s land in accordance with her thram.

Gup Kanjur had illegally been enriched by 3.72 acres of land.

The OAG also charged Thimphu dzongkhag’s former land record officer, Karma Jamtsho, for facilitating Kanjur to process illegal registration of 2.82 acres of Tsamdro. Karma Jamtsho had initiated the letter of 2000 validating that Tenzin’s Zomdrak Choetenjab plot is not in Thimphu and accordingly remarked in the dzongkhag chazhag thram. However, in the pretext of plot correction, the same plot had been forwarded to the erstwhile department of survey and land records for approval on June 30, 2006 without referring to the previous records.

During investigation, Gup Kanjur initially claimed the Debsi land to be substitute land granted against his ancestral land taken over by DANTAK in Babesa. In absence of any evidence to support his claim, he eventually conceded to having illegally measured on Debsi Tsamdro.

According to the Land Act 1979, like Sokshing, any private individual did not have proprietary right over tsamdro and was essentially deemed to be government land leased to cattle owners on permit basis. Encroaching or transacting government land is an offense under section Ka 6.20 of the Land Act.

OAG also pleaded before the court to de-register 19 private thrams brought from Gup Kanjur and restitute them to the state in line with the Land Act.

In connection with the ongoing case, the ACC on November 3 issued a freeze notice stating that the 13 decimal plot in Chakazhing, Chang Debsi owned by Peljor is frozen for any transaction.

On December 21, 2015, the ACC also froze transactions and developmental activities for 19 plots of land, measuring 3.72 acres bought from Gup Kanjur.

The Department of Local Governance last month suspended Gup Kanjur for his alleged involvement in another state land encroachment case. The OAG charged eight persons including a former Chang gup for alleged fraudulent measurement of 63.12 decimal of land between Soridrag and Kashingbagor in Babesa, Thimphu in 2000.

Rinzin Wangchuk