The 32 villagers from Toep gewog in Punakha who were sentenced to prison terms ranging between six months and a year appealed to the High Court on May 7.
Punakha dzongkhag court sentenced 20 villagers for malicious mischief and they were held liable for misdemeanour. The court ordered them a year in prison each. Another 12 villagers were convicted of criminal conspiracy for their involvement in planning the damage.
The villagers were found guilty of destroying three drinking water reservoir tanks and supply pipelines of the neighbouring gewog of Talo.
The court’s judgment stated that defendants can pay thrimthue in lieu of imprisonment and the villagers have to restitute Nu 15,721 each to Talo gewog administration amounting to Nu 487,350 in total within 10 days from the date of judgment.
One of the defendants, Kinzang said that the judgment was incomplete and that the villagers of Talo were equally responsible for what happened.
Kinzang claimed that the villagers of Toep gewog had given their consent to Talo gewog to draw water from Chuzam but the villagers of Talo instead took water from Tagolum, which is their main source for irrigation.
The identified source was from Chuzam, which was done in consultation with the public of Toep gewog. The charges have to be borne by the people who decided to source the water from Tago Lum.
“Why are the people of Talo not penalised for taking water from the source that was not identified?” he questioned.
He said that the court should penalise those from Talo who are equally responsible for this problem.
He claimed that they have raised their objection with the dzongkhag administration through their representatives. “Still the water was taken from our source,” he said.
He said that the defendants couldn’t pay the labour charges incurred in construction of water supply lines, which they have destroyed. The court ordered the defendants to pay for the labour charges as they have destroyed a big reservoir tank and two smaller ones and cut pipes of the water supply.