ACC vs OAG over Trongsa Land case

The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) are headed into another headlong clash, this time over the Trongsa land case that implicates the former Trongsa Dzongda Lhab Dorji, his wife and other local government figures at the time.

On one side the ACC is sure of its evidences and investigative findings, while on the other hand the OAG is confident of its legal review of the case and the evidences.

The OAG on the 30th of December 2016 had written to the ACC saying that it would have to drop the Trongsa land case as there were no legal grounds to prosecute the case and any of the accused in the case.

With the OAG declining to file a case the ACC may attempt to file its own case in the court using certain provisions allowed for it by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had earlier clarified the law on ACC prosecuting legal cases saying that it can only happen if there is undue delay, interference or manipulation.

It has been learnt that ACC would probably cite undue delay and manipulation as grounds to file the case on its own.

The ACC in July 2015 forwarded the Trongsa land case to the OAG after a two year investigation.

The main heart of the case from the ACC was that with the full knowledge and cooperation of the then Trongsa Dzongdag Lhab Dorji his wife Karma Tshetim Dolma colluded with Dragten Gup Tenzin and late Tshogpa Rinchen in order to fraudulently register four plots of lands measuring 2.77 acres at Taktse which were already acquired by the MoE and registered under Thram No. 514 in 2003 with the then Department of Survey and Land Records.

The ACC said forged sale deeds were processed through Trongsa Court with the intent to claim land substitute at Nubi Gewog where Karma Tshetim Dolma had later constructed a resort after land substitution was approved by the Department of Survey and Land Records (DSLR) in 2007.

ACC thus recommended OAG to charge alleged suspects for the offence of forgery, false reporting, aiding and abetting, illegal registration of excess land and official misconducts.

However, according to the OAG the main Chazag Thram had recorded Thram Nu 514 as a separate MoE plot for which land substitution was granted in Gelephu through Royal Kidu in April 2003 but that information was not reflected on the newly issued Blue Thrams of the two sisters that enabled the alleged transaction without fault of the purchaser, Dzongkhag court and other dealing officials who made their decisions based on the standing official Thram records issued by NLCS to the Dzongkhag and Gewog Land Records.

Moreover the OAG report says a copy of the Dispatching Register of NLCS, confirmed that the copies of the Royal Kasho and other official communications thereto were sent only to Sarpang Dzongdag, Gelephu Gup and Thimphu Survey Office. Hence, the Trongsa Dzongdag and Dragten Gup were not informed of the land substitution kidu so the OAG said they had no information on Thram Nu 514 already being registered by the Ministry of Education.

The ACC is not accepting this saying that the Dzongda as a member of the Land Acquisition Committee was well aware of the plot number 514 and violated laws in facilitating the purchase of the plots and seeking substitution for it later.

The OAG still stands by its legal opinion on the matter.

Another major issue from ACC was that during the Trongsa NCRP survey in 2010, Karma Tshetim Dolma, in collusion with field Surveyor, Kelzang Nima, had fraudulently registered one additional plot measuring 1.933 acres as GY plot on the already registered satshab land.

The OAG said it did not find any evidence of collusion between Kelzang Nima and Karma Tshetim Dolma as the applicable guidelines, notification and the Royal Kasho directed the field surveyors to measure and regularizes excess lands that fall under the definition of plot “Y” in favor of the lawful Thram owner.

The ACC has rebutted pointing to section 157 of the 2007 Land Act that says a land allotted as substitute shall not enclose any patch of Government land or Government Reserved Forests land inside its boundary which means that satshab land is not eligible for excess land registration.

Here, the OAG said that since the satshab was allocated before the enactment the 2007 Land Act the additional land it got in 2010 does not come under the 2007 Act.

The OAG had dismissed all other ACC’s charges, findings and evidences against former Trongsa Dzongdag Lhab Dorji, his wife Karma Tshetim Dolma, former Dragten Gup Tenzin, former Nubi Gup Phuntsho, National Land Commission surveyor Kelzang Nima and former Drangpon Ugyen Tenzin.

The ACC said that it does not agree with the dropping of the charges and stands by its case.

The ACC is expected to present a detailed rebuttal of the OAG’s dropping of the case in the coming week which is also expected to serve as the basis for the ACC filing the Trongsa Land case in court, independent of the OAG.

An OAG official said, “There must be finality from the dealing authorities on contentious issues that has apparently no conclusive proof to arrive at a different determination.”

The official said that the OAG has a screening corpus or committee comprising of all the division heads and deputies to minimize erroneous determination on the facts of the law.

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