Thimphu dzongkhag court’s bench I convicted former gup Naku of Chang gewog in Thimphu and sentenced him to two years in prison yesterday.

The court found him guilty of violating the Land Act 1979 for encroaching on government land and liable for prison term ranging from three months to three years.

However, Naku can pay in lieu of the prison term. The court also ordered him to pay a fine of Nu 400,724 for the illegal transaction.

Soon after the 1994 flood, the government took over land along the Phochhu bank belonging to 33 households to build river protection wall or embankment.

Nine of the households, petitioned to the home ministry and the land registration section instructed the households could find substitute land from the excess land the households had in Thimphu.

One of the households, late Namgay Lhamo didn’t have excess land so she was allowed to take substitute land from the excess land belonging to one Dralha at Gangboog.

However, the former gup paid Namgay Lhamo for the land and measured 46 decimals from state land at Dolugpo in Thimphu.

The court found that the defendant had violated the Land Act 1979, which required any land transaction to follow a specific procedure. Any transaction was required to be verified by the respective dzongkhag court and the application sent to the home ministry through the respective dzongkhag administration.

The ministry would then make changes to the mainland register or chhazhag thram and also issue an order to the local governments to make the requested changes accordingly.

“However, the defendant has failed to produce any evidence of having followed the procedure and the land transferred to his name,” the court’s judgment stated.

The resolutions of the 82nd and 83rd session of the National Assembly stated that those whose land have been taken by the government have to accept the substitute land given by the government and that the landholders don’t have the right to choose the substitute land.

The National Assembly made it clear that in case the landholder abandons the substitute land, the individual would not be entitled to substitute from another place.

Thimphu dzongkhag court chief judge Kinley Namgyel yesterday stated that the land was not acquired as per the Land Act 1979 or as per the home ministry’s order. The judge ruled that the defendant had measured the substitute land from state land on his own. The land was then given to two individuals.

“To measure and give land from the state land is the prerogative of the His Majesty The King alone,” the judgment stated.

The court ordered the Office of the Attorney General to coordinate the restitution of the land to the state.

Tshering Palden