According to the verdict from the Supreme Court, Gup Kanjur is to either give the 3.72 acres’ land replacement to the 18 buyers or give cash compensation inclusive of interest within the two months of the judgment.
However, it is no longer just 18 buyers as more than 60 individuals are actually involved in the sale-purchase of land due to sale and resale of which only a few buyers actually bought the land from the perpetrator himself.
Many of these affected individuals are now raising questions over what will happen to the land they bought and they are also raising past verdicts by the High Court and Supreme Court.
They say the above case is quite similar to the State vs Chang Ugyen, where Chang Ugyen had sold government lands to individuals in Lubding, Thimphu.
As per the high court verdict in 2008 the five buyers were given their thrams back as they were considered by the court to be ‘innocent bystanders’ as they bought the land following legal procedures. Chang Ugyen was asked to find substitute land and give it back to the state.
In the second case of Tashi Commercial Corporation Vs Thimphu Thromde, Tashi got the land based on findings of three facts of the Supreme Court, Firstly, registration in the Chhazhag thram, secondly payment of land taxes over the years and thirdly issuance of Lag Thram by the thromde.
The above buyers of land from Gup Kanjur said they have also fulfilled the same conditions but were not allowed to retain their lands.
Similarly, in the third case, 22 buyers who bought the land from Ugyen Wangdi (he had sold government land to them) in Changgidaphu, Thimphu they were allowed to retain their rightful ownership of the land.
Buyers said all the lands had been bought with valid lagthram from the Gup and the thrams have been validated and approved twice by the Royal court of Justice, National Land Commission, Agriculture departments and Thimphu Dzongkhag Administration.
The buyers justified that they have been paying land taxes and incurred expenses on conversion of land from wet land to dry land as well as contributed in terms of labour and expenses like any other land holders for the community for over 15 years. They have also contributed money for survey of land, paid for demarcation of land boundaries and contributed money for water supply and Lhakhang construction in Chang Debsi.
They said the land has undergone numerous changes in ownership titles and some of the current land owners have developed the lands, stacked construction materials at site, ready to build homes with drawings approved by the Dzongkhag Administration, banks loans were processed with these lands as the collateral and one has already constructed a house.
They said the price of lands will have increased by manifolds going through different buyers and sellers and it is simply illogical for buyers to get their compensation from Gup Kanjur when some current buyers bought the land from subsequent sellers and not Gup Kanjur himself.
As of now, only two or three people have bought the land from the Gup Kanjur himself and the rest bought from third parties.
“The judgment is basically saying, you get back your replacement land from gup Kanjur. If you cannot get back the land then accept the compensation,” said a buyer.
A couple, who sold their two-storied house and spent their life-savings as well as retirement benefits to buy the land from a third-party, is seriously unhappy with the verdict.
“That house was last of the possession we inherited from our parents. We even sold it to get that land. We were ready to build our home and even got the drawings approved. Now that the government is taking away that land, I am quite worried about being able to raise my kids and putting a roof over my family’s heads. Honestly it has been plaguing my mind over sleepless nights,” said the mother who wished to remain anonymous.
Another buyer even borrowed money and used her life savings earned from weaving clothes to pay for buying the land.
The buyers have decided to put up a petition to the Gyalpoi Zimpon.