Police detained former Trongsa Dzongdag Lhab Dorji and his family members yesterday after they were involved in an attack on Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) officials at the Supreme Court yesterday.
According to eyewitnesses, the incident occurred when they were exiting the courtroom after the court convicted Lhab Dorji, his wife and two others in the illegal land case.
A 24cm long ‘Rambo knife’ was found in a trash bin at the Supreme Court after Lhab Dorji’s attack on the Investigation Director of the ACC. The ACC official suffered a cut on his left hand and bruises during the altercation. One of the commissioners was also allegedly assaulted. There were only two police personnel on duty at the site of the incident.
Kuensel learnt that the ACC will press charges against those involved in the attack on the officials including one of their commissioners.
SC convicts Lhab Dorji and three others
The Supreme Court convicted Lhab Dorji, his wife Karma Tshitim Dolma, former Dragteng Gup Tenzin and former land surveyor of Trongsa Narayan Dangal in the land case and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 18 months to six years yesterday.
They were convicted of forgery, official misconduct, solicitation, and deception, among other charges.
The ACC registered the case with the Trongsa dzongkhag court in 2017.
The SC sentenced Lhab Dorji to a concurrent prison term of five years for eight counts of criminal charges including four counts of forgery, three counts of official misconduct, and one count of execution of document by deception.
Karma Tshetim Dolma and former Dragteng Gup Tenzin are sentenced to a concurrent prison term of six years each for forgery, solicitation, and influencing the witness.
Narayan Dangal is sentenced to 18 months in prison for aiding and abetting, and official misconduct. However, he can pay in lieu of the prison term.
Karma Tshetim Dolma illegally acquired land at Thumangdra in Nubi gewog. They were also convicted for the illegal acquisition of another plot of land in Taktse.
The High Court last year convicted six people in the case. Lhab Dorji, Karma Tshetim Dolma, Narayan Dangal, and former Gup Tenzin appealed to the Supreme Court.
In 1997, the government decided to relocate Semtokha Rigzhung Institute to Taktse, Trongsa, as Institute for Language and Culture Studies(ILCS) and allotted 43 acres of land for the Institute, which affected 37 households. Kinzang Dorji, father of Sonam Choden and Yangchen one of the affected landowners appealed for substitute land in Thimphu. Trongsa Dzongkhag administration as per the order of Gyalzim office submitted a field report on land acquisition in consultation with Drakteng Gewog administration, where the accused Tenzin was then Drakteng Gup. However, Kinzang Dorji was granted substitute land from Gelephu.
Defendants’ allegation that the Department of Survey and Land Record (DSLR) had illegally created a new thram no. 514 for Taktse ILCS during the existence of moratorium (1999 – 2004) on thram transaction as New Sathram Compilation (NSC) was in progress and the claim that thram no. 514 belonged to one Kinzang Dema: It was found that the DSLR created an interim Chhazhag thram no. 1253 for Kinzang Dorji in Gelephu, and thram no. 514 for the Ministry of Education (MOE), Taktse ILCS, pending the issuance of a new thram as per NSC. Kinzang Dema at that time was assigned Chhazhag thram no. 334. Later, when the new thrams were issued as per NSC, Taktse ILCS was allotted thram no. 600 and Thram no.514 was allotted to Kinzang Dema then only.
However, the same land was erroneously reflected in the new thrams of Sonam Choden and Yangchen. Based on these new thrams, illegal processes leading to the land scam gradually took shape since the accused, Lhab Dorji as the then Dzongda and the Chairperson of the Dzongkhag Land Allotment Committee, had all the information regarding the land acquisition and procedural lapses. Thereupon, fictitious sale deeds were created to portray that the land was sold to the accused, Karma Tsheltim Dolma, wife of Lhab Dorji.
Similarly, the land of Gyalmo (daughter of late Lhaden) was also included in the land scam by manipulating plot numbers resulting in the inclusion of government land in her thram. Gyalmo’s land holdings were inflated and accordingly, the DSLR effected these changes as per the justification of Dzongda Lhab Dorji. Thereafter, Karma Tsheltim Dolma executed fictitious sale deeds to transfer the land in her name.
Till the new thrams were effected in the name of Karma Tsheltim Dolma, the compensation and land substitution of the affected households were kept in abeyance. Upon getting the thram, she processed for substitute land at Nubi Gewog, and the accused, Gup Phuntsho of Nubi, upon the instruction of Dzongda Lhab Dorji, assisted her in getting the substitute land by preparing a fake community clearance.
Karma Tsheltim Dolma did not pay for the 2.3 acres of land to Yangchen and Sonam Choden, as they were already given substitute land at Gelephu by the Government. They were not aware of these transactions until ACC started the investigation. However, she had paid Nu. 45,000 to Gyalmo through Dzongda Lhab Dorji, which Gyalmo as was designed by them misunderstood to be monetary compensation from the Government for her land taken by Taktse ILCS.
Karma Tsheltim Dolma’s claim to have bought and from three individuals, which were later acquired for Taktse ILCS for which she had applied for substitute land from Nubi Gewog at Thrumang:
However, it was found that this land was acquired by MoE for Taktse, ILCS before she had executed the fictitious sale agreements. Further during the field investigation, the original landowner and Sai Tshogpa showed different locations of the controversial land acquired by MOE.
Gyalmo pointed that her erstwhile plot number 110 as present football ground of Taktse ILCS, whereas Karma Tsheltim Dolma showed plot number 105, which was an illegally created version of plot number 110 and was found to be government land. Sai Tshogpa identified plot no. 112 of Yangchen as present two basketball courts of Taktse ILCS and not plot no. 110 as claimed by Karma Tsheltim Dolma, which was supported by the response letter of Dzongdag Lhab Dorji to DSLR’s inquiry about suffix Drag on plot number 110 of Yangchen.
When Karma Tsheltim Dolma’s request for the lease of government land was rejected, she created a documentary manipulation to get land through GY plot and the accused, Narayan Dangal, a surveyor assisted in acquiring the GY plot through the creation of plot no. for Government land.
Defendants alleged State institutions, ACC and Courts, for unfair seizure of Karma Tsheltim Dolma’s 1.933 acres of land processed as GY plot and allotted through NCRP. However, it was found that the allegation was false as the land was acquired through deceptive means but being defended as “regularised’ through NCRP. Since there were deceptive or fraudulent elements in obtaining the Thram, appropriate action including seizure was inevitable.
In spite of the defendants’ claim that the forensic report proved that Gyalmo had appended her thumb impression on the sale deed, the report was not admitted due to lack of credibility as it was done without the knowledge of the court. More importantly, Gyalmo was misled from the very beginning, which deceived her into appending her thumb impression on documents as a procedure to receive monetary compensation from Government for her land acquired by Taktse CLCS then called ILCS.
Lhab Dorji and his wife colluded to benefit from the official information acquired by him in the official capacity of dzongdag and as the chairperson of the Land Allotment Committee.
Gup Tenzin had the knowledge of all the transactions of land from the beginning till the end. He prepared the sale deeds without the knowledge of the landowners and appended his thumb impressions against their names. The forensic report of fingerprints on the sale deed showed that he had put his thumb impressions against the names of Sonam Choden, landowner and witness Ngote. He also prepared a fictitious sale deed of Yangchen and Karma Tsheltim Dolma with an un-identifiable signature.
Narayan Dangal, as the surveyor, had illegally created Plot No105 with planimeter without actually visiting the site but claimed that he was instructed by his superior Land Record Officer, Sangay Yonten. Plot number 105 was illegally acquired by Karma Tshitem Dolma from Gyalmo and later, she applied for substitute land from Nubi gewog.
Ugyen Tenzin, husband of Yangchen gave the power of attorney for the transaction of his wife’s land but the same was not sued as it reached the court one day after the judgment.
Gup Phuntsho was involved in getting two fake community clearances of Nubi community despite knowing that Karma Tshitim Dolma was not entitled to substitute land.