Land Allotment Case: No authority was allowed to allocate land to people, Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) rebuttal against home minister Lyonpo Minjur Dorji’s statement said, especially if it was in deviation of set procedures and existing laws.
The minister’s legal council had submitted that the recipients of land were eligible applicants.
ACC officials, during the court proceedings on January 9, said the defendant’s council lacked proof of that, and how and under what criteria land allotment was done.
They also said it was a case of mens rea (Latin for guilty mind) that the minister had intent and the agenda in committing the act of knowingly providing land to many, who were ineligible to benefit land at Gyalpoizhing.
They said the only criteria that existed then were that of the zonal administrator’s letter of 1991, and subsequent circular of 1991 from the ministry of social service.
“Both of which the Mongar municipal committee failed to comply with,” ACC representatives said.
In response to the defendant’s earlier statement that the committee was bestowed with the power to allot land, according to Bhutan Municipal Act of 1999, ACC representatives argued a charter was crafted which, so long as it was not incorporated within the Act, the Act could not be implemented.
Ministry of social service’s letter through the then zonal administrator required that the power be wielded only in the interest and context of the local residents.
It stated, they said, that first beneficiaries of the land should be those existing legally operational shops in the municipal area, second being the local residents, after which the rest could be entertained.
“It clearly shows the committee did not follow the criteria the government had specified,” ACC representatives said. “The Gyalpoizhing land allotment was done against the wishes and interest of locals.”
The letter, ACC officials said, clearly showed how plot allotment committee members were supposed to go about the process.
Mongar municipal also failed to follow the 2001 letter from the director general of urban planning, which instructed the dzongda to wait for government approval to allot land.
“If the committee, indeed, had the authority to go about their ways, there was no need for urban development planning to send the letter,” ACC officials said. “The fact that they sent such a letter was evident that the municipal committee had no power to allocate land.”
Moreover, they said His Majesty, concerned about land scarcity in the country, commanded that no one should give land, except the King himself.
The King, they said, had written several kashos in 1980, 1985, 1987, 1991 and 2003, which clearly showed the concern and importance he associated to land.
Despite all that, ACC officials said Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, while he served as the Mongar dzongda then, had knowingly and intentionally allotted plots in 2005 to Kharchu dratshang and Dremetse dratshang in Mongar, and other private individuals, all of who were ineligible.
By Dechen Tshering, Mongar