HC upholds Samtse dzongkhag’s verdict 

Thinley Namgay 

The High Court (HC) recently upheld the Samtse dzongkhag court’s judgment on the illegal construction of the Chugu farm road in Joenpang-Lingarnang chiwog in Samtse in 2020.

Former Norgaygang gup Rinchen Dorji, mangmi Golay, and tshogpa Karchung appealed to the HC last year after the court sentenced them between one  year and 2.6 years.

The court sentenced Rinchen Dorji to two years and six months with a penalty of Nu 536,602. Golay and Karchung were sentenced to one year and three months each with a fine of Nu 134,150 each. However, the prison terms were compoundable.

On October 11, 2021,  the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged Rinchen Dorji, Golay, Karchung, Gewog Administrative Officer Yeshi Rangdol, and Gewog Engineer Aiman Limbu for  illegal road construction.  OAG filed a case to the Tashichhoeling drungkhag court. The court also ordered Yeshi Rangdol and Aiman Limbu to pay a fine of Nu 3,750 each.

The defendants appealed to the HC stating that Chugu farm road was constructed  as per the directives of Tashichhoeling drungkhag and the Samtse dzongkhag administration.

Former Gup Rinchen Dorji said he participated in the road construction tender floated by the drungkhag and acquired the work. He said the road was constructed as per the drungkhag tender committee’s work order on December 11, 2019.

Rinchen Dorji said that a letter from the dzongkhag on November 11, 2019, mentioned that two farm roads construction from Tsangma to Joenpang and Chugu, and Lingkhar to Baktong will be postponed, but there was no mention of any restriction.

Rinchen Dorji said that the dzongkhag later cancelled the farm road construction from Lingkhar to Baktong, but not the Tsangma to Jenpang and Chugu. “Seeing the benefit for 50 households, the  road construction was endorsed by the dzongkhag and the dzongkhag submitted relevant documents to the department of law and order (DLO).”

He said that he has requested the lower courts to ask the dzongkhag to produce all the documents that they submitted to the DLO.  He said the courts rejected his request.

Rinchen Dorji also accused the dzongkhag of writing a letter stating that they have done realignment of the Tsangma to Joenpang and Chugu road in presence of the dzongkhag’s environment officer, planning officer, agriculture officer, gup and tshogpa. “If this letter is genuine, why did only the environment officer and planning officer  sign the letter?” he said, adding that only after finishing the work, dzongkhag said that Chugu road construction was illegal.

The OAG stated that defendants  have to reinstate the cost incurred by the government for road construction and damaging natural resources.

The OAG charged Rinchen Dorji on the grounds of lack of environmental clearance certificate, encroachment on government land, official misconduct, breaching public security and tranquillity, and malicious mischief.

Golay and Karchung were charged with accomplice liability for malicious mischief and breaching public security and tranquillity. Yeshi Rangdol and Aiman Limbu were charged with failure to report the crime.

OAG said that Norgaygang gewog constructed the 1.53kms Chugu farm road despite not having dzongkhag’s approval. “The construction was not approved based on security reasons, as the road was close to the border area.”