One of the most controversial land grab cases involving the DPT Vice President in his past capacity as the Chang Gup will see an end with the National Land Commission (NLC) asking him to replace the 10 acres of Land.
The commission in its monthly meeting on July 2012 decided that the land will have to be replaced from any one of the four Dzongkhags of Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Chukha.
A member of the commission said, “It was established very clearly that Chang Ugyen had illegally taken government land in the Lubding and Babesa area in Thimphu and so the commission has asked him to replace it from one of the four Dzongkhags”.
Commenting on the case the NLC Secretary, Sangay Khandu said, “Something seems to have gone wrong otherwise it wouldn’t have surfaced in the report”.
The scam consisted of two cases and happened when he was the Gup of Chang gewog in 1987. In the first instance, Chang Ugyen put seven acres of community land in Lubding, Lungtenphu, under his name and sold it to five buyers.
In the second instance, Chang Ugyen converted his 2 decimal plot into three acres by forging documents (over writing on the thram). These cases were first uncovered by a special high level committee in 2003 set up to study land misappropriations in Thimphu.
It was also found that there was tampering and overwriting with the 1987 records in the main records in land commission.
The current market value of these 10 acres is estimated to be Nu 300mn.
A land official said that since the Office of the Attorney General has not framed any criminal charges on the forgery of thram records at the Gewog and Land Record offices, there will be no further legal criminal action against Chang Ugyen.
“As a Gup he (Chang Ugyen) may be held liable and if the tampering happened in the Department of Survey and Land Records, the officials in that department should have been held liable,” said the Secretary adding that it is important to see how things were solved at that time.
However, in what could come as a relief to Chang Ugyen the five owners who bought land from Chang Ugyen have voluntarily agreed to give the Satshab on behalf of Chang Ugyen from other Dzongkhags.
The decision of the committee is also in line with the High Court verdict in 2008 which had asked Chang Ugyen to reinstate the land while the five buyers were treated as innocent bystanders establishing a legal precedent of its own kind. Chang Ugyen had then appealed to the National Land Commission.
Legal experts from the then High Court had told The Bhutanese that if the current government had filed a criminal case against Chang Ugyen in the High Court in 2008 then even a criminal verdict on forgery of thram records could have been delivered.
However, even though this government was challenged by Chang Ugyen on civil grounds the government never brought up the criminal charges of thram forgery in court.
Earlier the OAG clarified through a press release that they neither received the report of the Committee formally nor did it receive any instructions from the government to initiate any criminal prosecution against any individual in regard to Chang Ugyen or any other cases.
A NLC official said, “We got the court order from OAG but only after the ten days petition period expired.”
The recent decision is also in the same spirit of the High Level committee recommendations of 2003 that looked at illegal land holdings in Thimphu.
The Surveyor General has been directed to work with the Dzongkhag and the Thromde to take over the land and also ensure that Thrams which were supposed to be deleted by the Thromde a long time back ago should be deleted.
The recommendations of the High Level Investigation Committee stated that all Thrams should be deleted. However, some Thrams still were not deleted by the Thromde.
Accordingly, a report on the implementation of the decision of the recent commission meeting will be presented in the upcoming commission meeting of NLC.
The Bhutanese had earlier reported that the deadline to give back the Satshab was by 2011. The Land Secretary said that when the deadline approached, the case was re-appealed by Chang Ugyen and re-considered.
Also The Prime Minister during the ‘Meet the Press’ earlier in March this year said that Chang Ugyen had approached the Prime Ministers Grievance cell against the NLC’s decision asking to him replace the land of equal value. The Prime Minister said that the Prime Minister’s office has given its directives and its views to the land commission.
On this, the Secretary said that it is the Prime Minister’s prerogative to direct the case to the commissions to take appropriate action.
The High Level Committee report of 2003 showed 45 cases of excess land being found registered within Thimphu from Chunzom to Pangrizampa and that 186.45 acres had to be returned by 48 individuals. By the year 2007, all the cases were completed except for ten including Chang Ugyen and others.
The High Level committee was instituted by the government in 2001 to study cases of excess land registration in Thimphu. The committee had submitted its report by 2003.
Earlier three parties the PDP, DNT and DMT had asked for an ACC investigation into the land scam.
The Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley had come to the defense of his Vice President saying that article was meant to show the DPT government in poor light.