Charges includes violation of road Act, breach of public order and tranquillity

Tashi Dema and Neten Dorji 

The Khamdang-Ramjar’s Member of Parliament (MP) Kuenga Loday, it was learnt, was charged on seven grounds.  The preliminary hearing was conducted.

The charges include malicious mischief, breach of public order and tranquillity, official misconduct, hindering prosecutions and violation of Road Act 2013, Environment Assessment Act 2000, and Land Act 2007.

Official sources said Trashiyangtse Dzongdag, Thuji Tshering, lodged a complaint with the police chief on October 12 last year, stating three youth farmers, who are sons of Khamdang mangmi Sangay Tempa, the mangmi and MP Kuenga Loday, who is the younger brother of the mangmi, constructed an access road to Khosung in Khamdang gewog.

Police then registered the case and sent a special investigation team, whose preliminary investigation revealed the MP also has an inheritance share in the land developed for commercial farming at Khosung and that he was equally involved in the clandestine construction of the road in a highly restricted and sensitive area.

It was alleged that MP Kuenga Loday, mangmi Sangay Tempa and his four sons exchanged several conversations via their family Telegram group chat, where the proposal for a commercial farm on their ancestral land at Khosung was discussed.

They also wrote to the dzongkhag to allow them to construct a road and requested for technical support as well, but when the dzongkhag administration denied the request, citing “restricted zone”, MP Kuenga Loday called the dzongdag to reconsider the decision.

It was alleged that on September 27 last year, the mangmi and his four sons deployed an excavator and constructed a road measuring 4.8m in width and 233m in length.

“Defendant MP Kuenga Loday impliedly consented to the construction and, after seeing videos in the group chat, he told his nephews to refrain from posting on social media since it was carried out illegally and secretly,” the charges stated.

Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged the MP with malicious mischief for violating section 396 (C) of the Penal Code, for allegedly colluding with his brother and nephews and for constructing a road to their farmland, which falls in a restricted area in Manla region, and damaging the environment and state reserved forest land.

He was charged with breaching public order and tranquillity.  OAG alleged that the MP, who worked as a teacher in various schools in Trashiyangtse and is now a MP, was aware of the sensitivity of Manla area. “He was disposed with the knowledge of laws and state policies to understand the risk posed by clandestinely marching the machine in restricted zone,” the charges stated.

It also stated that, although dzongkhag authorities denied the permit, the MP and his nephews constructed the road to their farmland. “The MP had also asked his nephews to refrain from posting the videos made that day on social media as it was carried out clandestinely. By this act, the MP violated section 448 of the Penal Code.”

MP Kuenga Loday was also charged with official misconduct.  OAG stated that, as the serving MP, his primary roles and responsibilities, according to the National Assembly Act, was to safeguard the security and sovereignty of the country and uphold the laws and policies of the country. “By this act of having made the interest of the country secondary to his own, he has violated section 316A of the Penal Code.”

He was also charged with hindering prosecution.  OAG stated that the MP, after realising the dzongkhag administration had decided to refer the case to police, called the dzongdag and dzongrab on several occasions to settle the matter within the dzongkhag. “By this act of a public official having failed to inform and alert lawful authorities in the initial periods to avert the road construction in restricted zone, he violated section 419 of the Penal Code.

The MP was charged with violating section 240 (10) of the Road Act, section 49 (1) of the Environment Assessment Act and 128 and 299 (e) of the Land Act, for colluding with his nephews and brother and taking the excavator to their ancestral land although authorities restricted it.

OAG stated that section 15 of Article 7 of the Constitution states everyone should be treated equal before the law and a sitting member of Parliament is not precluded from prosecution for committing a criminal offence under the law. “If a MP has committed a crime, he or she will be subjected to the general law of the land.”

It also stated that a crime is equally applicable to all citizens, including members of Parliament, and to ensure political morality should be the highest constitutional goal for the security, peace and sovereignty of our nation. “OAG will follow due process of law in the criminal prosecution of the concerned MP and other co-defendants.”

Meanwhile, the MP’s brother took to social media to state the family never constructed a road but only “marched” an excavator to utilise their 12-acre ancestral land in Khosung for the four employed nephews.

He also claimed that there are already two roads in the restricted or prohibited area, about a kilometre or two from Doksum to Tsangsingma, and about a kilometre from Doksum to Dawoong, which was constructed by the dzongkhag to dispose garbage. “The road was later extended to Tsangsingma for sand extraction.”