The long draw out legal battle and saga between Sonam Phuntsho and Tandin Bidha came to a close after a final Supreme Court order to transfer half the Changzamtok building to Sonam Phuntsho.
Sonam Phuntsho would have to pay Nu 4 mn of the around Nu 9 mn loan on half the building.
The court came up with the order on the issue after the failed auction of one half of the building owned jointly by Tandin Bidha and her daughter Sonam Wangmo.
The Supreme Court had set a minimum Nu 22 mn base rate for the auction but no buyers showed up on the 30th March auction date at the Department of National Properties (DNP). As a result, the courts final order says half the building being transferred to Sonam Phuntsho would cover his Nu 18 mn and on top of that he would have to pay another Nu 4 mn of the Nu 9 mn BNB loan.
Ever since the final verdict was issued by the Supreme Court in August 2016 the building has accumulated rent of around Nu 1 mn. This Nu 1 mn would be shared equally between Tandin Bidha and Ap SP.
Dr Shacha Wangmo said, “The more I think they will not go lower they always surprise me even more. They are always proving that they are favoring and looking to pay Ap SP.” She also questioned about how many times a court verdict could be revised.
Sonam Phuntsho on his part said that he was not happy with the fact that he has been ordered to pay Nu 4 mn of the loan amount by the Supreme Court. However, he said that he would accept this final order from the court.
The Supreme Court has already sent letters to the National Land Commission and BNB to transfer half the building to Ap Sp’s name along with a Nu 4 mn loan.
The BNB MD Kipchu Tshering expressed unhappiness with the final court order. He said after the failed auction BNB had offered to do the auction deduct its loan amount of Nu 9 mn and the give the remainder amount to Ap SP but the court had not accepted the letter.
The MD said that as per the Real and Personal Property Act the BNB bank had given the Nu 9 mn loan on half the building to construct it much before Ap SP was in the picture. He said that by that logic BNB had the first claim to its loan amount but the court had not accepted this.
The MD said that this has never happened before and the verdict would considerably complicate loan recovery efforts by Financial Institutions in the future as even private money lenders and transactions coming later would get precedence over institutional lenders.
On 18th August 2016 a joint bench of Justice Tashi Chozom and Justice Rinzin Penjore gave their verdict on Dr Shacha Wangmo’s mother Tandin Bidha versus Sonam Phuntsho case. The verdict said that Tandin Bidha had to pay Nu 18 mn to Ap SP failing which she had to transfer nine of her units along with a Nu 10 mn BNB loan to Ap Sonam Phuntsho. The Nu 18 mn was an alleged amount taken by Tandin Bidha’s daughter Sonam Wangmo from Ap SP. Sonam Wangmo, who did not appear for the court hearings, co-owns the building with her mother.
Ap SP during the three month period given for the verdict implementation declined to accept the nine units along with the loan while Tandin Bidha on her part offered the nine units with the loan. Both gave their stands to the Supreme Court in written and verbal submissions.
The same two bench judge deliberated on the matter and came out with an enforcement order on 12th January 2017 asking the DNP to auction the nine units.
Dr Shacha from the beginning has questioned the judicial process and verdicts on the case from the district court and especially so in the High Court and Supreme Court. She and her mother have also questioned why the court did not go by its original verdict of transferring the nine units along with the Nu 10 mn if Tandin Bidha failed to pay Nu 18 mn. They have alleged that the court has favored Ap SP.
The Supreme Court in the past in a rare case of public response in a legal case said that once the court has recognized a certain amounts is owed to an individual it has the flexibility to see how the amount has to be paid back.
The court in its past statement also questioned why Sonam Wangmo had not appeared to refute Ap SP’s claims and evidences and also questioned how Sonam Wangmo and her former husband took a Nu 30 mn loan from T-Bank based on forged documents. The issue of other private debtors seeking debts from Sonam Wangmo was also brought up.
The case in between also lead to a much publicized defamation case when a former BBS anchor uploaded Dr Shacha’s views on the case on her Facebook page. Ap SP who filed the case ultimately withdrew it from the Thimphu district court.