Update: The finance ministry will order the Department of National Properties (DNP) to auction nine units of Tandin Bidha and Sonam Wangmo’s building in Changzamtog.

This is in accordance to the Supreme Court (SC) order issued on January 13, asking DNP to auction the units of the building since the parties have not enforced the judgment of August 18, 2016, where Sonam Phuntsho will get nine units of the building if he clears the outstanding loan of Nu 10 million (M) with Bhutan National Bank if Tandin Bidha and Sonam Wangmo fail to pay him Nu 18M within three months after the judgment is delivered.

While Tandin Bidha’s family contended that they abided by the court’s verdict and surrendered nine units of their building in December last year, the Supreme Court ordered DNP to auction the units of the building.

An official from the finance ministry confirmed that they will order DNP to auction the units of the building as the Supreme Court cited section 10 of Article 21 of the Constitution, which states: “The Supreme Court and the High Court may issue declarations, orders, direction or writs as may be appropriate in the circumstances of each case.”

The official said that as per the provisions of the Constitution, they will follow the due process of law and auction the units of the building.

The official said that while this order is the first of its kind, where a government organisation is involved in auctioning a private property, the ministry does not want to question the SC’s order.

A senior attorney said if DNP auctions a private property, it is going to set a precedent, as in the history of judicial credit related cases, a state agency has never been ordered by a court to fulfil an individual creditor’s interest of recovery. “This is the first time the state will get involved in a private dispute.”

The attorney, however, pointed out that the cited provision of the Constitution the SC used as the basis for the court order, is a miscarriage of justice. “That article is meant to serve in circumstances where there is no specific law but in Sonam Phuntsho and Tandin Bidha’s case, the Movable and Immoveable Property Act takes care of it.”

A lawyer said that while this is the first case where a government organisation will be involved in settling a private property dispute, the ministry complying with the SC’s order without it first being discussed in Parliament will be construed as a crime. “The ministry or the government has to consult lawyers before deciding such cases, as it will set a precedent.”

Meanwhile, it has been learnt that the usual practice courts follow to settle such property disputes is by constituting a committee and asking banks to auction the property if it is mortgaged to any bank. The committee members also attend the auction.

Tshering Palden and Tashi Dema