The anti-corruption commission (ACC) received a complaint against gup of Shelngana gewog in Punakha, Samten Phuntsho, alleging that the accused had abused his authority and encroached state land and registered it in his wife Passang Wangmo’s name.
The incident occurred during the national cadastral resurvey program (NCRP) in 2011.
The ACC, in order to establish the facts of the allegation and to bring the matter to a logical conclusion, commenced their investigation on 28 May, 2019.
The ACC’s investigation aimed to determine two parts of the allegation; which include the origin and transfer history of the alleged plot in contention, and encroachment of state land during NCRP 2011 in Punakha.
ACC stated that consequent investigations revealed that thram no. 152 of Passang Wangmo, wife of Gup Samten Phuntsho, had also included the alleged plot BJM-2912 comprising of 80 decimals of wet under the name Kuchey Parkha Damlekna.
The investigation found that the said plot of land was gifted to Pasang Wangmo by her grandfather, Sha Thinley. However, the transfer document did not mention the inclusion of the plot at Kuchey Parkha Damlekna.
Local residents, who are aware of the matter, said late Kyalon Japha Dorji had taken over this plot from Sha Thinley and given it to his niece Dorji Pelmo and registered it as Kuchey Parkha Shamkharlog Damzhing.
However, due to the absence of records and documentation prior to 1980 with the National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS), the ACC could not establish if the alleged plot was indeed taken by late Kyalon Japha Dorji and registered it under his niece’s name.
ACC further contended that the alleged plot Kuchey Parkha Damlekna was not surveyed during the detailed survey of 1991 and subsequent new Sa-Thram compilation survey conducted in 2000.
“Owing to the fact that the said plot could not be identified on the ground, it was not reflected in any of the maps prior to NCRP in 2011,” ACC stated.
In addition, the ACC found an application dated 08/07/2000 with the NLCS which was submitted by Sha Thinley requesting the alleged plot at Kuchey Parkha Damlekna to be removed from his Thram as the land did not exist.
However, during the NCRP 2011, in Punakha, ACC found out that Samten Phuntsho, with the intent to encroach the land, had submitted an application on behalf of his wife claiming that the alleged plot was included in their Thram but has been omitted from the map.
ACC further stated that Samten Phuntsho, in the capacity of gup, had then endorsed the application along with two Sai-Tshogpas, Passang Dorji and Gelong. Accordingly, surveyor Jigme Tenzin of NLCS had surveyed the 80-decimal land and identified it as Kuchey Parkha Damlekna and registered it under plot number BJM-2912.
The ACC investigation revealed that the plot surveyed was on a slope with overgrown trees without any attributes of ever being an irrigated wetland. “However, the surveyors and two Tshogpas ignored this crucial topographical and physical evidence on the ground,” it said.
ACC said the gup, tshogpas and the surveyor signed the form and endorsed the location and the boundary of the plot, BJM-2912. It was also noted that since the contented plot was surrounded by state land there were no disputes related to the plot.
It was also stated that the plot was further reinstated into Thram no. 152, registered under the gup’s wife, directly during the NCRP survey without routing through the Office of Gyalpoi Zimpoen.
Following the investigations, the ACC issued a freeze notice for plot no. BJM-2912 registered under Thram no. 152 of Passang Wangmo on 30 June last year.
Since the investigation established that there was sufficient and satisfactory evidence to prosecute the case, the ACC forwarded the case to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) on 30 June last year.
ACC had then asked the OAG to prosecute Samten Phuntsho, Passang Wangmo, Passang Dorji, Gelong, and Jigme Tenzin based on the outcome of the investigations, and to reinstate plot BJM-2912 to its original status as state land.
However, on 23 November last year, the OAG concluded that it was just a case of omission and didn’t merit prosecution.
Following this, the ACC categorically responded to the OAG on 26 November last year by taking into account all the related facts and evidence.
ACC stated that the accused, Samten Phuntsho in the capacity of a gup, had instead of safeguarding the state land, committed an illegal act of processing and obtaining the 80 decimals of state land as private land and registered it in his wife’s name.
The ACC also requested the OAG to re-evaluate the case in addressing the central issue of protecting state property and ensuring effective deterrence.
The OAG finally registered the case on 5 April this year and charged Samten Phuntsho for official misconduct and his wife Passang Wangmo for encroachment on state land.
In addition, Tshogpa Gelong and Passang Dorji, and surveyor Jigme Tenzin were also charged for aiding and abetting in encroachment of state land.