Thimphu dzongkhag court’s criminal bench sentenced eight people, involving a dzongkhag staff and his wife, a local leader, two former gups and three Thimphu residents to prison for encroaching on state land and regularising it illegally.

The judgment passed yesterday sentenced the dzongkhag staff, Mindu Dorji, to three years in prison for forgery and encroaching on state land.

Mindu Dorji was found guilty of fraudulently measuring 63.12 decimal of land between Soridrang and Kashingbagor in Babesa (above the Dantak area) in Thimphu in 2000. The land was the (tsamdro) grazing ground of Baap Tshalumaphey in the past.

He was given a year for forgery, as he forged documents stating that a 10 decimal land he bought from Kuenga Choden at Pashingang Jabchogzama below Talakha lhakhang is between Soridrang and Kashingbagor.

He was given another two years prison term for state land encroachment, as he increased the 10 decimal land to 63.12 decimal and registered it in his wife’s name.

Mindu Dorji was found guilty of violating the Land Act 1979, illegally registering state land and fraudulent measurement of state land.

The court also ordered him to restitute the 63.12 decimal land to the government and pay Nu 86,945 as penalty. Although he was imposed a penalty of Nu 549,901, the judgment stated that he paid Nu 462,956 to the government as extra land payment.

The judgment stated that on July 28, 2000, the then Council of Ministers instructed the home ministry to regularise excess land falling within the extended Thimphu City Corporation (TCC) area in compliance with the 58th National Assembly resolution of 1983.

The ministry was required to complete the survey and necessary regularisation before transferring the records to TCC. The Department of Survey and Land Records (DSLR) had surveyed and executed changes.

Accordingly, Mindu Dorji’s wife Pemo had deposited the excess land fee for the 53.12 decimal on government rate of Nu 20 per sq ft amounting to Nu 462,956, while the land registered in her original thram was only 10 decimals.

Chang gup Kanjur, two former gups, Naku and Kencho, three residents of Chang gewog, Namgay, Gyeltshen and Bjabcho and Mindu Dorji’s wife Pemo were sentenced to six months each in prison for signing on the no objection certificate Mindu Dorji prepared for his wife Pemo, which stated that the land is between Soridrang and Kashingbagor.

They were found guilty of violating section Na 1 and 2 of the Thrimzhung Chenmo.

The eight people could pay thrimthue in lieu of prison term, as it is compoundable sentencing.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) discovered the alleged crime sometime between 2012 and 2015 when it was investigating another encroachment and illegal regularisation of state land involving a former assistant survey officer of the erstwhile Thimphu City Corporation (TCC). 

The investigation found that sometime in 2005, Chazam Rinpoche purchased a plot measuring 63.12 decimals from Pemo for Nu 3.945 million. It was during the period when the thram record for the municipal area was being handled by the TCC after it was handed over by the DSLR.

The case was about suspected bribery and illegal registration of 46.88 decimals of government land at Tshalumaphey, Semtokha in the name of Chagzampa Drubthop Rinpoche or Chagzam Rinpoche.

The investigation was based on the Royal Audit Authority’s referral, which was followed by similar letters from the National Land Commission secretariat, and the TCC requesting the ACC to investigate the matter.

Tashi Dema