Case 13/2011- Gyelposhing Land Scam

This case once became a sensational story in the media as it involved the then serving Speaker of the Parliament. The case, however, pertained to his misconduct surrounding the Gyelpozhing Township Plots allotment between 1999 and 2006 in Monggar, while he was serving as Dzondag (District Governor). The allotment included both commercial and residential plots allotted in various phases viz. 19 commercial plots in 1999; 26 commercial plots and 41 residential plots in 2001; two commercial plots in 2005; and three residential plots in 2006.

Investigation revealed that the criteria adopted by the Plot Allotment Committee, in principle, were derived from the Kashos (Royal Decree) and circular from the then Secretary of Ministry of Social Services, but the implementation was fraught with flaws and abuses. It was found that the Committee wielded total authority on plots allotment by flouting the established criteria and set procedure and blatantly disregarding objections raised by the competent central authority, the then Ministry of Communications. Investigation, among others, established that the draw of lots had become the deciding or standalone criterion for plots allotment to those not fulfilling the criteria of owning legal businesses and operating them in the locality. Verification of trade licenses and their operational status was not done with due diligence since the criteria was not applied in earnest.  The plot allotment committee was found to have introduced an ad hoc criteria, on the basis of which, several rich and influential people in Thimphu, who neither fulfilled the criteria nor attended the draw of lots, were allotted plots. Further, the check and balance for plots allotment was systematically removed with the Committee members securing plots, through their spouses and relatives, by simply filing applications with privy to information on plots in Gyelpozhing. The Plots Allotment Committee was found to have undermined the rule of law and the principle of due diligence, fairness, equity, transparency and check and balance. Most of the members acquired plots in the names of their spouses/relatives, while people who lost their land for the township development were deprived of land even upon repeated request to the Dzongdags.

Of the 99 plots allotted, 67 (14.12 acres) were found to be illegal. Further, Genja (post-allotment) terms and conditions signed between the local authority and eight plot beneficiaries were not strictly enforced as the beneficiaries had sold the plots in violation of the terms. A total of 16 plot beneficiaries were found to have misused the subsidized rural timber allotted to them by the Government for the construction of houses in the allotted plots.

The Gyelpozhing Plot Allotment Committee and Monggar Municipal Committee were charged for various offenses under Thrimzhung Chhenpo, Land Act of Bhutan 1979 and Penal Code of Bhutan 2004. The eight recipients of plots, who did not abide by the post-allotment terms and conditions were held administratively liable as per the terms and conditions in the Genja. Simultaneously, prayers were submitted to the Court to restitute 67 illegal plots (measuring 615,042.86 square feet or 14.12 acres) together with 6 buildings from the illegal beneficiaries, restitute 16,898.46 cubic feet of timber at commercial rate amounting to Nu. 3,554,978.29 from 16 beneficiaries, who misused the subsidized timber and forfeit the cost of 67 illegally allotted plots. 

While the case was forwarded to the OAG initially on 31 August 2012, the OAG refused to prosecute the case citing no ‘locus standi’. Subsequently, the case was prosecuted by the Commission u/s 128 (3) of the ACAB 2011.

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