Former Trongsa dzongdag Lhab Dorji has appealed to the High Court against the judgment Trongsa dzongkhag court rendered in the illegal land acquisition case on November 15.
Claiming that it was not the dzongdag, drangpon and gup of Trongsa who colluded and misused authority, he said drangpon Ugyen Tenzin, who was also convicted for forgery, was not the Trongsa drangpon but a registrar general of High Court then.
Lhab Dorji said he appealed because the Trongsa court did not take his submissions into consideration.
The former dzongdag, who was convicted to 13 years imprisonment for forgery, official misconduct and execution of document by deception, but given a five years concurrent sentencing, said the court only based on ACC’s documents, in which two sisters, Sonam Choden and Yangchen claimed they never sold their land and never gave any authorisation. “Yangchen later gave in writing to ACC that she remembered telling her husband Ugyen Tenzin to sign on her behalf.”
He also said that he had instructed the land record officer (LRO) to delete eight plots of land from the two sisters’ thram, but the LRO did not do it, as it was just a copy of a letter sent to Sarpang dzongkhag and not sent to Trongsa dzongkhag directly.
He also claimed that he and his wife, Karma Tshetim Dolma, paid Nu 120,000 to the main complainant in the case, Gyalmo, and not 45,000 for the Nu 2.18 acres land. Both he and his wife said they did not have evidence of the claim, as they forgot to ask for receipt. “I asked her to sign in a diary but couldn’t locate it.”
Lhab Dorji said Gyalmo submitted three contradictory statements to ACC, but only the first statement was used, against him.
He said that a count of forgery pertains to an application submitted in the name of the complainant’s mother, Lhadon, to Trongsa dzongdag requesting for land substitute from Mengoenpa and Dhuthroe Thama of Nubi gewog.
“ACC could not prove that it was not Lhadon’s writing or thumb impression, as it is a photocopy and not the original writing,” Lhab Dorji said.
He claimed that the plaintiff showed him application in original and they concealed it before the Court to avoid finding the real owner of the handwriting and thumb impression through forensic examination, as it would prevent ACC from creating circumstantial evidence against him.
“As for my signature on the application, it was not signed on behalf of the applicant but as the dzongdag, and the remark to the land record officer was made in the official capacity of the dzongdag.”
However, the judgment stated that Lhadon expired when the application for land substitution was lodged.
Lhab Dorji said that he was charged for forging note sheet and writing to NLCS to reduce the number of people to be paid compensation from 23 to 13, and withholding the payment of compensation, to delay the land acquisition process until 2.77 acres of land belonging to Sonam Choden and Yangchen were transferred to his wife.
He said that while the list of 23 landowners was submitted to the home ministry in 2002, the approval for compensation came only in 2004. “In the two years, the land required for Taktse College changed and landowners too. I was not involved in the routine acquisition process and note sheet is a way of ensuring due diligence in the internal operation of the office and cannot be considered forged as long as the signatures on the note sheet and the purpose is genuine.”
He also said that a dzongdag doesn’t go to the field for surveys, but he asked the land record officials to clarify on plot number 110 as mandated by Land Commission and surveyor Narayan Dangal verified and established plot 110 with 51 decimal belonged to thram 506 of Yangchen and plot 105 with 1.10 acres belonged to thram 495 of late Lhadon. “The findings were submitted to Land Commission’s joint director and the plot changes were approved by the then surveyor-general.”
He also said that the report was sent seven months before the execution of the sale deed and it is irrational to assume that surveyors were sent to increase the plot to allow my wife to buy it.
The court ruled that Narayan Dangal did not even visit the site and convicted him to two years for aiding and abetting the dzongdag and for official misconduct.
On the official misconducts, he said the Land Act 1979 ensured that a person could acquire land substitute from any gewog and it was an obligation for dzongkhag to help landowners get suitable land substitutes.
He also said the guidelines for land acquisition and satshab allotment 2005 mandates a committee comprising of officials from the forest and agriculture department, land record, finance and dzongkhag engineer to assess the land substitute and processing. “My wife was eligible for land substitute and it was not just her who availed the substitute in Nubi gewog.”
The former dzongdag said that he and his wife have never been substituted for the land they bought from Gyalmo until today.
He said that he took loans from financial institutions to construct the resort and courts, as a judicial entity also has the responsibility to look into financial losses.
Meanwhile, he said he is also appealing on the legality of the whole judicial process, as OAG dismissed the case and ACC does not have the legal standing to prosecute the case.