The Supreme Court (SC) issued an order to the Trongsa dzongkhag court to expedite the alleged illegal land acquisition case against the former Trongsa dzongdag Lhab Dorji.

The order was read during the witness hearing yesterday, where it mentioned that the case has prolonged for a long time after it was registered with the court.

The order also stated that because of such delays in judgment, people are criticising the judiciary.

Defendant Lhab Dorji, however, pointed that the order was erroneous and said that the case is between the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and him and not between Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and him as mentioned.

The ACC investigated the case in 2015 and forwarded it to the OAG. The OAG returned the case, stating that there was no legal basis to prosecute the case.

ACC then prosecuted the case as per Section 128.3 of the ACC Act, which gives ACC the authority to prosecute cases.

Lhab Dorji, the former Trongsa dzongdag and eight other individuals were accused of illegal acquisition of 4.73 acres of land at Thumgang or ‘View Point’ in Trongsa by the dzongdag’s wife. It also involves the illegal acquisition of another 2.18 acres of land in Drakteng gewog in Trongsa.

The accusation was that the former Trongsa dzongdag, in the name of acquiring land at government rates of Nu 200 per decimal for the Institute of Languages and Cultural Studies (ILCS), facilitated his wife to buy land at the same government rate from private landowners.

The ACC also accused the former drangpon, Ugyen Tenzin, former gups of Drakteng and Nubi for facilitating the land transfer. The preliminary hearing was done on April 20 last year and the ACC charged the defendants for forgery, execution of documents by deception, official misconduct and misuse of power.

The case surfaced after a landowner, Gyalmo, complained to the ACC that she did not sell her land to Karma Tshetim Dolma. Gyalmo filed a case against Karma Tshetim Dolma with the Trongsa court in 2011 but was dismissed, stating that the same court adjudicated the matter before.

The witness hearing for the case had to be postponed thrice, as one of the defendants lost his mother before the scheduled hearing and Lhab Dorji had to travel abroad twice.

Meanwhile, three officials, Nubi gup Tashi Penden and two tshogpas, Wangchukla and Kinley, who were charged for official misconduct, have sought approver from the court according to section 66 of the Penal Court of Bhutan.

The section states that a court in order to obtain evidence and testimony against another suspect for the same or different crime, which is of serious nature may, tender pardon to the defendant incriminated on the same or different offence, allow the defendant to be sentenced for a lesser crime or award the defendant a lesser punishment for the offence charged.

The three individuals stated that they would submit the truth to the court that Lhab Dorji’s wife, Karma Tshetim Dolma, was actually not eligible for a land substitute in Nubi gewog.

The hearing would continue today with the witness submitting the statements in writing.

Nim Dorji | Trongsa