The plea came in the light of the same arguments the two sides were posing at the trial court
The grounds of appeal the legal counsel for home minister Minjur Dorji and 13 Gyalpoizhing plot allotment committee members submitted the High Court, Anti-Corruption Commission officials said would cause confusion.
Commission’s representative at the court said the grounds of appeal for all 14 members were loose, unclear, lacking names, or judgment numbers.
“So our plea to the court is to dismiss the case and uphold the trial court’s judgment,” he said. “Having to go through the whole process of presenting the same arguments is like opening a new trial again.”
In absence of such details, and one legal counsel representing all committee members including the home minister with general grounds of appeal, he said it was going to be difficult for them to present their views.
“The basic argument seems to be mainly about the authority home minister had as the dzongda then to allot plots in Gyalpoizhing,” he said. “The legal counsel then simply plonked in names of other committee members.”
At the trial court, he said committee members, right from the first hearing, maintained they had nothing to say with regards the charges against them.
All they stated, anti-corruption representative said was that they were unaware of the processes and criteria involved in allocation of plots at Gyalpoizhing.
“Some said they merely followed the dzongda’s orders, against which they couldn’t raise objections,” he said, adding a few others had said they could not remember what processes had transpired then.
“Here today, we have them all appealing,” he said.
The commission’s representative at the court also said the committee members were convicted because they refrained from performing the duty they were entrusted with.
“They watched plots being allotted to people who were ineligible, all the while the villagers who were had been left out,” he said. “It’s no so much about the authority to allot plots, but more about responsibility.”
He said the very reason His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo issued the kaja was to keep a lid on such practices from emerging including the subsequent court cases like the one today.
To further ensure that, he said the King required for a committee to be formed to create that check and balance, should such an arbitrary land allotment occur.
“The meaning of the kaja and the following government circulars then were very clear,” he said. “They were aware that more people would be vying for a piece of land within that limited space and that such a problem would arise,” he said.
There was a need to look at the intention, ACC representative said.
The intention, he said certainly was not to give land to some influential people and other kith and kin in Thimphu but to those who were deprived of land, particularly those on which business could be established.
He said there were 18 buildings in the area, of which two were illegal and that there should essentially have been more than 90.
Whether the committee members had knowingly and intentionally allotted plots to the dratshangs of Dremetse in Mongar and Kharchu in Bumthang and a few other people, he said it was clear to see.
He said first these beneficiaries were enlisted in the agenda for discussion and it was then reflected in the minutes of the meeting.
“There were discussions where some committee members asked if they had the authority to allot land to dratshangs,” ACC’s representative said.
They were, he said, however allocated land for reasons that they don’t receive government assistance and that people of many remote villages enrolled their children in these monastic institutions.
The spouse of a dzongkhag official received a plot because the official had ensured all preparations went well for the fourth King’s visit.
All of these, he said, were evidences that the act was carried out knowingly and intentionally.
In response to the defence counsel’s submission of how the home minister and his team of committee members stood to benefit from the land allotment, ACC’s representative explained the benefits could be direct, indirect, now, or in future, or it could be good will.
“Even if it doesn’t benefit them directly, it does the plot allottees some of who sold the land at much higher prices than they initially invested,” he said. “That benefit came by disprivilegeing other 24 applicants whose land the government had acquired.”
Then came the issue of criminal intent.
“When you know your act is prohibited, then there is criminal intent,” ACC representative said, adding that without doubt Lyonpo Minjur Dorji was a civil servant then and he knew it was not in his power to allot land. “Even objections were raised by a few committee members and he still went ahead with plot allotment.”
Defence counsel Jamyang Sherab Wangdi said he found it difficult to understand how the ACC representative responded to all the grounds of appeal he had submitted and still claimed to not see ground of appeal in their submission.
He reiterated some of the grounds he had submitted to the court on April 3 before informing the court that mere assertions of the direct, indirect, good will, present and future benefits the committee members gained from the land allocation in Gyalpoizhing was not good enough.
“It’s not mere assertions but facts that arguments have to be based on,” he said. “All of these benefits have to be specified and proven.”
By Samten Wangchuk