The members given compoundable sentences ranging from a year to 30 months
Gyalpoizhing Land Case: Mongar district court yesterday sentenced three defendants to a year, and two-and-half-years in prison, in connection with the Gyalpoizhing land allotment case, the hearings for which began in December last year.
The defendants have the option of paying thrimthue, or money, in lieu of a prison term, within 10 days from the day of passing the judgment.
National Assembly speaker Jigme Tshultim, whose judgement was read out first, at around 9:45am, was given a two-and-a-half year sentence. The sentence was based on 23 charges.
Should the speaker choose to pay in lieu of prison term, he is liable for Nu 90,000.
The 511-page verdict said he was guilty of illegally allotting plots to 23 individuals, including his maid, during his tenure as Mongar dzongda and chairman of the plot allotment committee between 1999 and 2002.
The speaker issued land ownership certificates to 22 people, including Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley and works and human settle minister Yeshey Zimba, who were allotted plots of different sizes.
“The speaker failed to abide by His Majesty’s kasho (written order) issued on March 31, 1987, and the allotment criteria and guidelines that works and human settlement ministry set,” the judgement stated. “The intent of the kaja of 1987 and government directives were clear, as were rules and procedures, specifically designed to prevent such allotment of urban land.”
The verdict said the court established that he had allotted land to those, who did not fulfill the government-approved criteria to give land to people, who owned and operated legal shops in the given township; second to the local resident before giving it to the rest.
The defendant allotted 19 plots from commercial area during the first phase in 1999, and another 26 out of 43 applicants for commercial plots and 41 from 89 applicants were allotted in the residential area.
The standard size of the plot in the commercial area was 7.26 decimals, but some were allotted 14.57 decimals, while in the residential area, it ranged between 10.67 and 50 decimals.
In 2001, the plot allotment committee, under the defendant’s chairmanship, had imposed an additional criterion that required eligible applicants to attend in person the lucky draw for plot allotments.
The court ruling stated that 124 applicants, who were absent during the draw, since they were unaware of the dates, were still allotted plots, based on the defendant’s claim that it was the committee’s decision.
The committee conducted a lucky draw for residential plots from a list of 90 applicants, of which 67 were remarked as “not reported”, four as “blank”, another four as “reserved”, and 15 were allotted plot numbers.
Similarly, the plot allotment committee conducted a lucky draw to allot commercial plots from a list of 43 applicants, of which, 19 had failed to report, while four were allotted a plot each.
Beside the sentence, the court also ordered the speaker to restitute 8,201.76sqft of plot to government that was illegally allotted to his maid, Nima Zangmo, in 2000.
The defendant prepared and forged Nima Zangmo’s signature, who had never applied for a plot.
During the court proceedings, the speaker said he paid for the plot and paid taxes so far.
The court verdict said, although Nima Zangmo was absent during the draw, the speaker, in her land certificate ownership, had stated the plot was allotted through lucky draw in presence of plot allotment committee members.
Home Minister Minjur Dorji
As the Mongar dzongda between 2005 and 2006, Lyonpo Minjur Dorji had allotted plots to Kharchu dratshang in Bumthang, Dremetse dratshang in Mongar and a woman, Kunzang Dema.
He was sentenced to a year in prison for official misconduct. He had also allotted a plot each to two members of the royal family. Allotment to royal family members was not discussed in the Mongar court, on the grounds that it would be taken up by another authority.
The Mongar municipal committee chairman, according to the court ruling, failed to exercise due diligence while allotting plots.
“He not only failed to abide by His Majesty’s kasho that set criteria, and announcement made by works and human settlement ministry to defer allotment and registration of commercial land until further notice, instead he allotted plots to the two dratshangs and an individual, without considering 124 eligible, who had already applied for plots.”
The court also ordered him to return the plots allotted to Dremetse and Kharchu dratshangs to the government.
Former municipal building inspector and member secretary of Gyalpoizhing land allotment committee during speaker Jigme Tshultim’s time, Dechen Singye, was given a one year sentence for deception. He violated Na 1-2 of Thrimzhung Chhenmo.
He was found guilty of allotting a plot to his sister Dechen Zangmo, who was not eligible.
The defendant, the judgement said, had written application for a plot, and had given his thumb impressions on his sister’s behalf, which was a case of “conflict of interest”.
Anti-Corruption Commission officials established that Dechen Singye had paid for the plot and sold it soon after he bought it.
He was Mongar municipal committee’s building inspector in 2002, and a member secretary of the land allotment committee.
In that capacity, he compiled a list of individuals possessing license and running shops in Gyalpoizhing, Kurizampa and Lingmithang, to prepare a list eligible for plot allotment.
He had signed allotment of 19 commercial plots in the first phase, 26 in the second and 41 in the third phase in 2001.
Following the judgement, Dechen Singye asked the drangpon of the possibility of reducing his prison-term or amount in lieu, because he had been suspended without salary for five months.
In response, drangpon Gembo Dorji said he could have considered lowering Dechen Singye’s sentence, had he served a prison term or been in detention, which bereft an individual of his liberty and freedom.
“I’m helpless,” he said. “I can’t put in my mouth, what I can’t swallow.”
By Kuensel Reporters | Mongar