Twist in property case places DNP in limbo

Legal: While the defamation case of Sonam Phuntsho (Ap SP) against Namgay Zam and Dr Shacha Wangmo has concluded, another twist to the property case of Ap SP and Dr Sacha’s family has emerged.

The property suit, involving a five-storey building, was the main area of contention in the defamation case. Namgay Zam shared the story of Dr Shacha Wangmo’s grievances against alleged corruption in the judiciary in settling her family’s dispute against Ap SP.

Ap SP, in his application to withdraw the defamation suit, cited a Supreme Court order dated January 12 to the Department of National Properties (DNP) to auction the five-storey building in Changzamtog on February 4.

This comes after the Supreme Court verdict of August 18, 2016 stating that Sonam Phuntsho will get nine units of the building if he clears the outstanding loan of Nu 10 million (M) with Bhutan National Bank, if Dr Shacha Wangmo’s family fails to pay him Nu 18M within three months after the judgment is delivered.

Dr Shacha Wangmo, after the withdrawal judgment of the defamation suit on January 24, questioned how the Supreme Court could issue the order without informing the family and Bhutan National Bank.

Following the judgment being passed at the dzongkhag court, Dr Shacha Wangmo’s family members also claimed that they surrendered their nine units in the building to Ap SP according to the Supreme Court’s verdict in December last year.

“The clerk told me that I’ll be informed when the Supreme Court makes a decision after my submission and I’m still waiting for the call,” Dr Shacha Wangmo’s mother Tandin Bidha said.

“My family was never informed about the auction and how come Ap SP knows?” she said.

Meanwhile, the media and Dr Shacha Wangmo’s family members are still looking for a copy of the Supreme Court order issued to DNP.

DNP officiating director, Karma Wangdi refused to comment and asked the media to consult the finance ministry’s spokesperson.

Dr Shacha Wangmo claimed that the officiating director told her it was a confidential document personally delivered by a messenger.

Kuensel has learnt the department has forwarded the issue to the highest authority in the ministry. It has sought directives from them on the conduct of the auction.

This has also raised questions as to whether DNP can auction disputed private properties.

The organisational responsibility of DNP’s auction unit, given on its website, among others, states that it is responsible for the disposal of all surrendered government property.

“This section therefore carries out regular auction whereby all surrendered government properties are disposed, generating revenue for the government. The disposed properties are then recorded for any future references,” it states.

The National Assembly, in the last session, decided that DNP is not responsible to manage seized goods and properties of law enforcement agencies like Anti-Corruption Commission, police, Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority, Department of Revenue and Customs, agriculture ministry, and Office of the Attorney General, among others.

Finance minister Namgay Dorji submitted before the Assembly that during the consultative meeting with enforcement agencies it was found that DNP was not the right agency to manage seized goods and properties.

Tshering Palden and Tashi Dema

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