Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

The Samdrupjongkhar thromde has been subject to a legal case that requires it to compensate a resident who supervised the construction of a Zangdopelri in the town and claimed ownership of the land and property.

The thromde didn’t ask for the ownership of the land. Rather, it was verifying, as a local authority, the ownership of the land after the National Land Commission (NLC) found that the land didn’t belong to resident Thinley Dorji. The Commission asked him to handover the land to the thromde.

Thinley Dorji had appealed to the Commission to rectify the thram, which was entered in the thram as “Zangdopelri, care of Thinley Dorji”. He wanted to remove the wording “care of”, claiming that the land was his.

In 2015, Thinley Dorji filed a case against the thromde. The final verdict from the Supreme Court last week asked the thromde to compensate him with Nu 27,987,842 for expenses incurred while constructing the Zangdopelri, two buildings, retention walls, a butter lamp building, and land taxed he has paid so far.

The thromde, meanwhile, will discuss with the NLC and the government on how and who will pay the compensation,

Thrompon Karma Sherab Thobgyal, said the thromde administration, as a custodian of state land, only wanted to clarify who the real landowner was. He said that Thinley Dorji was found not to be the actual owner of the land during the investigation they conducted. “It was not our case and the thromde never claimed the land. But Thinley Dorji filed a case against us.”

Since the SC had also passed the same judgment and ordered the enforcement of the district court’s judgement, Karma Sherab Thobgyal said they would have to accept the judgment and pay the required compensation. “However, we don’t have money and the right or authority to pay compensation. We ask for help from the government,” he said.

The thrompon added that while he respects the courts’ judgment, he is  concerned that compensating people who had used state land would set a precedent.  “Anyone could use state land and claim compensation later,” he said. The thrompon also said they would have to verify and consider how much income Thinley Dorji has made from renting the two buildings so far.

The thromde would renovate the Zangdopelri and inspect the structural quality of the two buildings. If good, it will be rented out to thromde staff, especially those in a low-income group.

The thromde legal officer, Tshering Chophel, said they were not involved in the case to claim the ownership of the Zangdopelri land, but to find out the actual ownership of the land.

“Who will pay the compensation, the NLC or the thromde administration?” he asked. “We need a separate budget if we are to pay the compensation. We have not discussed how and who will pay the compensation, but we will write to the NLC.”