The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the High Court verdict in the Dr Shacha Wangmo’s Mother Tandin Bidha versus Sonam Phuntsho case but there was also a significant change.
The original verdict of the High Court which had been previously upheld by the Supreme Court was that Tandin Bidha had to pay Nu 18 mn to Sonam Phuntsho within three months on the basis of four money receipts or give up nine of the 18 apartments in her Changzamtok building. The building is jointly owned by Tandin Bidha and her daughter Sonam Wangmo.
However, after the Supreme Court re-examined the verdict the addition is that if Sonam Phuntsho takes over the nine apartments he has to pay around Nu 10 mn loan of Sonam Wangmo to the Bhutan National Bank. The Supreme Court verdict was re-examined after Tandin Bidha approached His Majesty’s Office.
In the court proceedings Tandin Bidha had challenged the four receipts asking for a forensic test of the signature of Sonam Wangmo on the receipts. She also asked Sonam Phuntsho to prove how he had lent out such a big amount to them be it through bank transactions or even if it was through cash payment. Tandin Bidha had also stated in court that she and Sonam Wangmo were not in Thimphu at the time of the signing of the receipts.
The Supreme Court verdict upheld the lower courts throwing out the sale deed of the house based on the assertion of Tandin Bidha that she had never signed it.
However, the Court in its final verdict upholding the High Court verdict said that the four money receipts showed Nu 18 mn had been given. They also said that in addition to the signature matching other court documents submitted by Sonam Wangmo the lawyer of Sonam Wangmo had accepted it as her signature in the High Court.
However, in the earlier court proceedings Tandin Bidha had argued that the then missing Sonam Wangmo’s lawyer had misrepresented her and challenged the lawyer’s acceptance of the signatures which she also said was done without their knowledge or that of Sonam Wangmo.
The Supreme Court in its final verdict did not accept the T- Bank’s submission that after deducting all the money owed the property be given to them for a loan of NU 15 mn each owed to them by Sonam Wangmo and her then husband Choki Gyaltshen. The loans were taken based on a forged version of the original Thram.
The bank had submitted that a total of around Nu 38 mn was owed to the bank after including the unpaid interest. The court asked that T- Bank to undertake separate legal case and proceedings.
When contacted, Tandin Bidha said that she was not at all happy with the verdict. She questioned how come the same Supreme Court can come out with two judgments on the same case.
Tandin Bidha said that the first verdict had not mentioned that BNB would get first priority in getting its share of the loan paid from the nine apartments and had only mentioned that if Nu 18 was not paid then all nine apartments would go to Sonam Phuntsho.
She said now that latest judgment gives first priority to paying the BNB loan first. Tandin Bidha said that since BNB had given the loan around 2006 much earlier than the legal case with Sonam Phuntsho from 2014 the BNB should always have been given first preference.
On the T-Bank aspect of the Nu 38 mn owed by Sonam Wangmo and Choki Gyaltshen, Tandin Bidha asked if the Supreme Court’s main basis to award Nu 18 mn to Sonam Phuntsho was on the money receipts then why it isn’t also accepting T-Banks much stronger documentary evidence or banking receipts of money being given to Sonam Wangmo in 2010. She said that since T-Banks loan was much earlier even T-Bank should have received preference. She said though T-Bank loan was on an allegedly forged Thram the sale deed for the house to Sonam Phuntsho had also been dismissed by the court.
Tandin Bidha said that on the Nu 38 mn loan in T-Bank she said that from the district to the high court and even the Supreme Court the talk was only of Nu 15 mn owed by Sonam Wangmo. She questioned why Choki Gyaltshen’s 15 mn alleged loan was also being dragged in especially when the two had long split and did not even have a Marriage Certificate.
She said that she was not even aware of such a T- Bank loan until it was brought to her notice much later. Tandin Bidha said that she does not know how Sonam Wangmo took the loan and whether she actually took the money or not. She questioned why T-Bank did not contact her when a forged Thram was brought to them when she was co-owner of the real Thram. She also pointed out that T-Bank had given an all clear certificate in 2010 to BNB stating that Tandin Bidha and Sonam Wangmo did not owe any loan to T-Bank on the original Thram.
The T-Bank MD when contacted declined to comment on the Supreme Court verdict. Tandin Bidha said that she would see what options she had
On the other side Sonam Phuntsho also expressed unhappiness with the verdict. He said that the previous High Court verdict upheld by the Supreme Court at the time had no mention of him having to pay a Nu 10 mn loan of Sonam Wangmo to BNB for possessing the nine apartments.
He said that he would much rather get back his Nu 18 mn. He said he would wait for three months to be paid the amount. On not receiving the amount he would not mind taking the building but would not want to pay the Nu 10 mn loan to BNB and he would also see his options on the issue.
Sonam Phuntsho pointing to the verdict said that not only the court but also the very lawyer of Sonam Wangmo had accepted it to be her signature on the receipts.
He also questioned why Sonam Wangmo had absconded if she was innocent on the issue.
Sonam Phuntsho said that Tandin Bidha’s doubts on the final verdict is irrelevant as the Supreme Court itself had passed a final verdict based on earlier verdicts which had proved him to be in the right on the basis of his evidences.