Samdrupjongkhar thromde, on July 1 appealed to the High Court against the dzongkhag court’s verdict on the Zangdopelri land dispute case.

The lower court has asked the thromde to compensate a private individual in its judgment last month.

The thromde stated they were appealing because they are not satisfied with the judgment since it ordered them to compensate Thinley Dorji when it is clear that the land belongs to the state and the ownership of the land was given to the thromde.

The June 19 judgment ordered the thromde to compensate Thinley Dorji with Nu 27,987,842.19 within two months and Thinley Dorji was asked to surrender the Zangdopelri and two double-storied building to the thromde.

The compensation was as per Thinley Dorji’s claims for the expenses incurred while constructing the Zangdopelri, two buildings, walls and a butter lamp house and land tax, among others.

Thromde’s legal officer, Tshering Chophel, said thromde administration as a local authority was following due process of the law and wanted to verify the real owner of the land.

“Thromde never wanted the land or have any interest to own it. We neither have the capacity nor are we the competent authority to pay the compensation. We are just following the order as an implementing agency,” he said.

The legal officer said National Land Commission (NLC) instructed thromde to verify the ownership of the land. “We then requested the district court to verify it.”

He said Thinley Dorji claimed that the land belongs to him but failed to prove it in the court.

The Zangdopelri, he said, was built as per the special culture committee and the then Kidu lyonpo’s (home minister) order in 1980s for public purposes and not to benefit a private individual or entity.

“The order also states that the Zangdopelri will be handed over to the government after completing the construction. Thinley Dorji was asked to supeevise the construction and there was nothing mentioned about giving him the land ownership. We don’t know why he didn’t hand over the Zangdopelri to the government,” Tshering Chophel said.

The legal officer said the compensation rate need to be worked out by the experts because the rates reflected in the judgment were based on the estimates submitted by Thinley Dorji.

He said that Thinley Dorji also mortgaged the land with the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (RICBL) and sold 3,400sqft land. “We are not happy because it was not reflected in the judgment despite producing the sale-deed and other relevant evidence in the court,” he said.

“The government is not at all expropriating the private property by exercising eminent domain rather claiming a rightful and legitimate ownership. Therefore, the government paying compensation for the private property built in the state’s land is totally incomprehensible and irrational as it will set a precedent in the future,” the legal officer said.

Thinley Dorji filed a case against the thromde in 2015 after he received a notification from the National Land Commission (NLC) directing him to surrender the land to the thromde.

The thromde then notified him to surrender the land in a month’s time after receiving the order from the NLC.

The notification from the NLC was in response to thromde’s investigation report submitted to the commission claiming that the land belonged to the state.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar