… they have to refund Nu 804,902 to the government

Rinzin Wangchuk

Three former local leaders of Norgaygang gewog, Samtse were convicted with a prison term ranging from one year and three months to two and a half years in prison for illegal construction of farm road proximity to the international border.

They constructed 1.4 kilometres Chungu farm road in 2020 without approval from the dzongkhag and department of Law and Order. Tashicholing drungkhag court passed the judgment on February 16.

The former Norgaygang Gup, Rinchen Dorji, received a concurrent prison term of two years and six months for the six charges the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) booked against him. He was found guilty of illegal construction of road under the Road Act 2013, construction of road without Environment Clearance under the Environment Assessment Act 2000, official misconduct, malicious mischief and breach of public order and tranquillity under the Penal Code.

Rinchen Dorji submitted to the court that the road was constructed legally as per the budget proposed by gewog, approved by the dzongkhag administration and endorsed by the dzongkhag tshogdu (DT). “I haven’t constructed the road illegally but constructed legally based on Gewog’s financial year 2019-2020 allotted for the construction of road,” he had submitted.

He also submitted that he got a green signal verbally from the dzongkhag planning officer since dzongkhag had already approved and allocated budget for road construction in the 12th plan.

Former mangmi Goley and former Tshogpa Karchung were also sentenced to one year and three months each in prison. They were found guilty of aiding and abetting, accomplice liability with the gup for malicious mischief and breach of public order and tranquillity.

Both Goley and Karchung also submitted before the court that they didn’t stop road construction since the budget was already reflected in the 12th Plan and approved by DT and concerned authorities. “Since gup received approval from the planning officer verbally and the road was going to benefit 13 households, they supported gup to construct the road,” they submitted.

However, all three defendants can pay thrimthue in lieu of their prison terms.

The court also ordered three defendants to reinstate the cost incurred from the public fund amounting to Nu 804,902 in constructing the road.  Of the total amount, Rinchen Dorji was asked to deposit Nu 536,602 to the government’s coffer. Two other accomplices will have to refund Nu 134,150 each.

The site engineer of the gewog,  Aei Man Limbu and the gewog administration officer, Yeshey Rangdrol, were penalised of Nu 3,750 each for failing to report the crime.

The illegal road construction issue was surfaced in 2020. The gewog administration had written to the dzongkhag administration seeking approval to construct a farm road from Satsangma-Joenpang and Joenpang to Chungu in Norgaygang gewog on October 25, 2019. The dzongkhag, after reviewing the application, wrote to the gewog disapproving the construction on security grounds and its proximity to the border.

The gewog again submitted its second request in writing on December 16, 2019, to consider their request. The dzongkhag administration then forwarded the issue to the Department of Law and Order.  The department did not approve on the same grounds.

In a similar case, the Trashiyangtse dzongkhag court on August 14 last year sentenced Khamdang-Ramjar Member of Parliament, former Khamdang mangmi and four nephews of the MP were convicted with the prison term ranging from three years and nine months to five years in prison for illegal construction of a road leading to their farmland in Khoso, Khamdang gewog.

The court also allowed them to pay thrimthue in lieu of their prison terms.