The curtain has fallen on the long-drawn case between the Thimphu thromde and the Tashi Commercial Corporation (TCC). The thromde has won.
It can now acquire, based on need, the two plots near the Lungtenzampa bridge from TCC, the rightful owner.
The case started in 2013 on the ownership of one of the plots, I-22. Thromde claimed it as government land and wanted to convert it into a taxi parking. TCC resisted and the Supreme Court ruled that the plot belonged to TCC.
The problem didn’t end with the decision. Thromde refused to hand over the physical possession and restricted construction in the plot stating it is in the Green Zone where constructions are theoretically restricted.
TCC sued the thromde again, this time on the criteria of the land.
Thromde argued that the grand master plan, the Thimphu Structural Plan 2002-2007 had identified the land for planned development of the capital city. The larger bench of the high court ruled that based on Thimphu Structure Plan and Urban design proposal for core area, TCC plots I-22 and L-1 were in G2 (Green Zone) precinct even before the ownership of the two plots were contested in the court of law.
The judgement on the case will not end the issue. TCC is aggrieved by the decision.
TCC can appeal to the Supreme Court. If it does, within 10 working days, the case will prolong. TCC is aggrieved because the High Court included the adjacent plot L-1 (Tashi Cell building and tower area) in its judgment when the case to the Court was only on the precinct of plot i-22, a TCC official said after the judgement on July 18.
TCC is questioning the master plan. They are arguing that the architects of the plans submitted in the “Forward,” of the plan document, that some proposals are on private land parcels, but these are totally dependent on dialogues and the consent of the property owners.
“The Thimphu Structural Plan was adopted with changes by the Cabinet. With such changes in place, alleged G2 land (I-22) was maintained as Urban Core. The action taken by thromde, based on the documents which they rely to make their case, totally disregarded the Master Plan and submitted draft plan perceiving it as the approved plan and the HC admitted such evidence.”
TCC officials said they have no confidence in the authenticity of the plan documents the thromde purported as the approved or final version and presented to court. “We were not given access to documents despite repeated requests,” said officials. “Does the denial of access to the documents mean that thromde might have apparently doctored the documents to suit its position? In such case, any private individual can become victim of such decision of the authority.”
TCC is also challenging the issue of their plot being in Green Zone. “Thromde never brought up the issue of the plots being in G2 when the ownership was contested. Had they been confident about the precinct, why did they have to fight the legal battle to gain ownership when they knew they could exercise the principle of eminent domain?”
TCC is referring to the recently opened multi-storey car parking above TCC’s land to argue that the thromde is not restricted by the precinct classification system. “They constructed the multi-story car parking in what was indeed a G2 precinct in the documents it presented to the Court as plan documents.”
Aggrieved by the decision, the biggest business house in the country is asking “relevant authority to audit how accurately it (thromde) had been implementing its plans on the core area based on the Thimphu Structural Plan.
Core urban problem?
Notwithstanding what happens after the appeal, should TCC do so, compensating TCC for its property on the land in question is going to be another problem.
The land at the entrance of the core city is earmarked as the city gateway, one of the many proposed plans to extensively redevelop the urban core and transform the Urban Core into “cosy and attractive urban setting.”
From what TCC officials indicate, nothing looks cosy.
“Compensating for the land is the bare minimum,” said a TCC official. The thromde or government will have to compensate for relocating Tashi InfoComm Limited (TCIL) or TashiCell, a subsidiary company of the Tashi Group.
Tashi Group outbid three joint ventures to operate the first private mobile service in the country with a Nu. 777 million (USD 17.32 million) offer in 2006.
The company is already doing the math. But the concern is the telecommunications and network infrastructure. “There could be unforeseen loss to TICL. There will be ineffable cost of service disruption both for mobile and internet network for the whole of Bhutan,” said an official.