The sitting gup of Chang, Kanjur, has been implicated for alleged encroachment of government land, deception and forgery in connection with the illegal registration of more than three acres of Tsamdro (pasture land) in Chang Debsi, Thimphu.
The findings of the investigation conducted by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) from September 19 to December 30, 2016, which was forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for prosecution, also charged Thimphu dzongkhag’s former land record officer, Karma Jamtsho, for facilitating Kanjur to process illegal registration of 2.82 acres of Tsamdro.
Both the charges are being reviewed by the OAG.
“We are still reviewing the ACC’s report and going through facts to establish grounds for prosecution,” an OAG official told Kuensel.
ACC’s investigation revealed that the Debsi community owned 388.6 acres of pastureland in Kumdra and Seudrak. ACC found that there were two plots – Chakazhing and Dzomdrak Choetenjab – measuring 90 decimals and 2.82 acres respectively, belonging to Kanjur’s mother, Tenzin. Later, these two plots were fragmented and sold to 18 individuals.
The modus operandi
The investigation determined that sometime between 2000 and 2005, the accused had fraudulently registered these two plots on tsamdro in the name of his mother. He was accused of inflating the acreage from 15 decimals to 2.82 acres and, from six decimals to 90 decimals, taking advantage of the excess land claim being allowed at that time.
The findings stated that the chain of evidence proved that the plot Dzomdrak Choetenjab was actually located in Punakha and already declared as land in Punakha during the separation of Thed-Thimphu in the mid 1980s. Survey records proved that the landowner was unable to locate this plot during the 1988 survey. Although Tenzin had a plot called Chakazhing in her old chazhag thram, the actual location was found to be near Babesa, not at Debsi where Kanjur with intention to encroach government land in collusion with the then Gup Naku, had deceptively claimed and measured as his mother’s land.
During investigation, both Kanjur and Tenzin admitted that the two plots in question were not originally located there. The boundary of the community tsamdro as described in the tsamdro thram, according to ACC’s findings, clearly shows that the tsamdro had been encroached.
The investigation also determined that in trying to conceal and make it appear on official records that these plots originally existed in Debsi and were surveyed in 1988, the accused had forged and tampered the detail survey map, the New Sathram Compilation (NSC) field Kappa form and arranged falsified the community’s clearance.
Kanjur, according to ACC, had illegally been enriched by 3.72 acres of land.
“Since Kanjur was the sole beneficiary, the accountability of altering the Kappa form and map should be borne by him,” the report stated.
ACC found that former Chang Gup Naku, in his capacity as gup, knowingly assisted Kanjur in the illegal registration after receiving 50 decimals free of cost from the same area. Karma Jamtsho, who was then the land record officer in Thimphu dzongkhag administration, had also allegedly facilitated Kanjur in processing the illegal registration despite his knowledge that one plot was officially declared by the landowner herself as being in Punakha.
Karma Jamtsho was accused of initiating the letter of 2000 validating that Tenzin’s Zomdrak Choetenjab plot is not in Thimphu and accordingly remarked in the dzongkhag Chazhag thram. However, in the pretext of plot correction the same plot had been forwarded to the erstwhile department of survey and land records for approval on June 30, 2006 without referring to the previous records.
During investigation, Kanjur initially claimed the Debsi land to be substitute land granted against his ancestral land taken over by DANTAK in Bebasa. In absence of any evidence to support his claim, he eventually conceded to having illegally measured on Debsi Tsamdro.
According to the Land Act 1979, like Sokshing, any private individual did not have proprietary right over tsamdro and was essentially deemed to be government land leased to cattle owners on permit basis. Encroaching or transacting government land is an offense under section Ka 6.20 of the Land Act.
Speaking to Kuensel last evening, Gup Kanjur said his comments are the same that he shared with Kuensel earlier and statements submitted to the ACC. He reiterated that he made it very clear that if he committed the crime, he is ready to face legal consequences.
“However, one should understand that the alleged illegal transfer took place when I was serving as Chang Mangmi, and had no authority to transfer thram and register government land other then Gup and concerned dzongkhag officials,” Kanjur said.
The commission also concluded that former gup Naku had no reason to receive 50 decimal plot from Tashi Pem as a gift as reflected in the court verdict. The findings stated that although Naku claimed that he bought from Tashi Pem, there was no proof to substantiate his claim. Tashi Pem’s husband told the investigators he had gifted one-acre land to Kanjur and that he doesn’t know what transpired between Kanjur and Naku.
However, Kanjur claimed that Naku had solicited 50 decimals promising that he would help him register his two plots at the tsamdro area.
Although former gup Naku’s signature was alleged by Kanjur to be there at the end of the no objection letter from the public of Debsi, Naku refused to admit that it was his signature. He said that he does not remember signing the document.
“Hence, the commission could not draw a strong conclusion that Naku had been criminally involved in encroachment of Tsamdrom and forgery of public documents, since the only evidence was based on Kanjur’s claim,” the report submitted to the OAG stated. “The commission is not fully convinced that the 50-decimal plot of Naku, which was directly transferred from Tashi Pem, was necessarily a gratification to Naku. However, the OAG may look further into the possibility of charging Naku based on the facts of the case, circumstantial evidences, arguments, and additional evidences provided by Gup Kanjur himself.”
De-registration of private thrams
The commission recommended the OAG to de-register private thrams and restitute them back to the state in line with the Land Act. The investigation determined that Kanjur had subsequently sold the illegally acquired government land to different individuals.
The report stated any aggrieved individual who bought land from Kanjur and is currently holding the ownership title may be, at best, advised to resolve the case among themselves. If the land is to be resituted from 19 individuals who have already constructed permanent structures, the Kashos dated November 19, 1984 may be applied and government may be required to reimburse expenses through appropriate process.
In addition to restituting the government land, ACC stated that the offender should be liable to pay the cost of the land as penalties as per the Land Act.
“In determining the amount of fine, Nu 35,000 per acre may be applied as a base rate since this rate was used for collecting excess land costs by the government during that relevant period. Gup Kanjur had already paid for the excess land and also the land tax in October 2006,” the report stated.
The commission recommended that whatever amount had been paid by Kanjur to the state as excess land payment and land tax should be forfeited to the state in lieu of the fine payable.
On December 21 last year, the commission froze transactions and developmental activities in 19 plots of land, measuring 3.72 acres bought from Gup Kanjur.