The Trongsa dzongkhag court yesterday asked the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to present detailed documents and evidence pertaining to the land case involving former dzongdag, Lhab Dorji and his wife.

This is the second time the court is deferring the evidence hearing.

During the first evidence hearing on February 28, the court asked the ACC to furnish legal documents to authenticate the evidence.

The hearing is now deferred to April 12 and 13.

The ACC officials presented few evidences based on statements and facts.

The district court was not satisfied with the documents ACC presented before the court and asked the prosecutors to present all the charges, basis and evidence.

However, the ACC prosecutor said that all the background on the case and basis for the charges were already submitted before the court in the earlier hearings.

The court said it would not be fair on the part of the defendants if the court goes through all the documents presented to make the evidence stronger. He said that the prosecutors must take this responsibility.

However, the court also stated to the defendants that evidence does not necessarily be direct in nature as it is not possible to get direct evidence on all the charges. “This is why the court will also accept circumstantial evidence.”

Circumstantial evidence is evidence that relies on inference and different piece of information to draw a conclusion.

The ACC investigated the case in 2015 and forwarded it to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The OAG stated that there was no legal basis to prosecute the case. ACC then prosecuted the case as per Section 128.3 of the ACC Act that gives ACC the authority to prosecute cases. The section states that the commission may carry out its own prosecution of a person charged with an offence under the Act or take over the prosecution process from the OAG when the case is delayed without a valid reason, manipulated, or hampered by interference.

The former Trongsa dzongdag, former drangpon and eight other individuals were accused of illegal acquisition of 4.73 acres of land at Thumgang or ‘View Point’ in Trongsa by the dzongdag’s wife. It also involves the illegal acquisition of another 2.18 acres of land in Drakteng gewog in Trongsa.

The accusation was that the former Trongsa dzongdag, in the name of acquiring land at government rates of Nu 200 per decimal for the Institute of Languages and Cultural Studies (ILCS), facilitated his wife to buy land at the same government rate from private landowners.

The ACC also accused the former drangpon, Ugyen Tenzin, former gups of Drakteng and Nubi for facilitating the land transfer. The preliminary hearing was done on April 20 last year and the ACC charged the defendants for forgery, execution of documents by deception, official misconduct and misuse of power.

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.

However, all 10 accused denied the charges during the opening statement hearing. The prime accused, Lhab Dorji and his wife Karma Tshetim Dema submitted to the court that all charges by ACC are untrue and that the investigation itself was conducted unfairly.

Tshering Dorji |  Trongsa