…Office of the Attorney General claims parties to the case are responsible to enforce the judgment after July 27

Rinzin Wangchuk

In a seemingly long drawn-out legal saga, the contentious issue surrounding the encroachment of State land in Trongsa has resurfaced after eight long years.

The scandal, which resulted in the conviction of a couple, continues to puzzle authorities as they grapple with the question of who should be responsible for enforcing the court’s ruling to return the land and the resort to the government.

The issue surfaced once again after the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) wrote to the Commercial Bench, Thimphu dzongkhag court, that the state prosecutor is not responsible to enforce the judgment since OAG is not a party to the civil suit involving Bank of Bhutan Limited (BoBL) and a couple, Karma Tshetim Dolma (KTD) and Lhab Dorji.

The letter signed by Attorney General Lungten Dubgyur with a copy to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and ACC chairperson on June 1 stated the OAG was not involved in the case. “It is not within the mandate of the OAG to involve in civil cases involving two private parties,” AG stated, adding that the issue was the offshoot of a case dropped by OAG as per Section 42.1 of the OAG Act 2015.

The AG also stated that the case was pursued by the investigating agency, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), from the trial court to the Supreme Court without involving OAG.

As per the judgment passed on January 27 this year, the trial court ordered the OAG to initiate the restitution of the land along with the Viewpoint Resort to the government within six months from the date of the judgment. The due date to enforce judgment falls on July 27.

The total outstanding loan accumulated from eight loan accounts availed by KTD with her husband Lhab Dorji as the guarantor stands at Nu 246 million as of November 14, 2019, from the date of passing judgment by the Trongsa court. 

Prosecuted by ACC, both appellate courts affirmed the trial court of Trongsa, which ordered the borrower to restitute the land to the State. The trial court also ruled the State may take the structure by paying the cost derived based on the valuation of the properties and if the government does not wish to take over the structure, the borrower was ordered to dismantle the structure at their own cost.

In 2012, KTD availed Nu 132.2M loan from BoBL mortgaging her 4.703-acre land to build the Viewpoint Resort in Trongsa.

The court directed OAG to recover the amount from the government for restitution and deposit in the loan account.  In case, according to the ruling, the value calculated by the government did not cover the loan amount, the bank should take over the property on lease and make the loan repayment till the liquidation of the loan.

According to OAG’s media focal person, the office is responsible for those cases where the OAG is a party to the case and only on those cases where the OAG prosecutes or only where the government is a party to a case in civil litigation. “Otherwise in all other commercial or civil cases, the party themselves are responsible to enforce their judgments directly from the court,” he said.

He said that the OAG was never involved nor called for any hearings in the Trongsa case. “The OAG was only summoned when the court rendered judgment,” the media focal person told Kuensel.

One observer pointed out that there was no reason to play a blame game in this case. “It is a straightforward case, the court has to “bell the cat” as the court normally does for civil cases on its own,” a professional lawyer said. “If not ACC, which is a party to the case, should enforce it like the JPLP’s tax evasion case.”

According to BoBL officials, they don’t have any option but to request the court to enforce the judgment when the six-month period expires after two weeks.