Nima Wangdi

Former Drakteng gup Tenzin and the then-surveyor for Trongsa dzongkhag Narayan Dangal pleaded innocent at the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday in an ongoing land case.

Their lawyer claimed the duo are not guilty of any crime.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) charged Tenzin for helping defendant Karma Tshetim Dema (KTD) transfer land by forging a sales deed, despite having the knowledge that the land was acquired by the government, and was even replaced.

“My client was aware of the land being identified for acquisition by the government but had no idea it was acquired,” the lawyer said.

He claimed that the government acquired the land only after it was transferred to KTD. “The dzongkhag court failed to authenticate if the land replacement in Gelephu was legal, but penalised my client unfairly.”

The lawyer said the government never acquired the land before it was transferred to KTD.

The case was further complicated when Gyalmo, a complainant with a separate land issue, first brought her issues with the defendant Tenzin to the attention of the ACC. Tenzin has also been charged with helping to transfer land belonging to the late Lhaden (Gyalmo’s mother) to KTD by producing a fictitious agreement.

“That’s untrue; the land was actually sold to KTD,” the lawyer said.

He submitted that Gyalmo initially wanted his client to ask KTD to pay extra money. “KTD refused, since the land had already been bought, and even the thram had been transferred.”

The lawyer said Gyalmo then tried to register the case with the Trongsa dzongkhag court, claiming that there should be some remaining land under her name from what was sold. “Gyalmo then approached the Gyalpoi Zimpon office, but since there was no fraud, the matter was dropped.”

He said Gyalmo then complained to the ACC, claiming she had not sold any of her land to KTD. “The course of the case changed drastically, but the ACC still took it up and punished innocent people.”

Tenzin also questioned in court that if signing as a witness on the sale deed was a forgery, what about former drangpon Ugyen Tenzin who signed on behalf of his wife? “The person who actually committed the crime escaped with a compoundable term, but I have been given a non-compoundable sentence.”

He requested that the court make the ACC identify the plot registered under Thram 514, in the name of Sherig Leykhung in Taktse. “This is a fictitious thram former drangpon Ugyen Tenzin created to get a land replacement in Gelephu.”

Narayan Dangal also pleaded innocent.

He submitted that he had worked according to the instructions from his superior. “But I don’t know if it was legal or illegal.”

He claimed that he is a mere surveyor, the lowest in the civil service system and had no authority to manipulate anything. “I surveyed the land, and submitted the report to my supervisor.”

He requested that the court reinstate him, as he has been suspended.

His lawyer submitted that the ACC presumed Dangal had not visited the site because it was Saturday that day. “If this is the case, the ACC also investigates cases on weekends and during off-hours. Shall we nullify all of their work saying they did not do it during office hours?”

The ACC will rebut on January 26.