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Illegal road construction case at Supreme Court

Thinley Namgay    

The former gewog officials of Norgaygang appealed to the Supreme Court (SC) recently after the High Court (HC) convicted them last month of illegal Chugu farm road construction in Joenpang-Lingarnang chiwog in Samtse in 2020.

Former Norgaygang Gup Rinchen Dorji, Mangmi Golay, and Tshogpa Karchung appealed to the SC stating that the 1.53km road was constructed as per the work order of Tashichhoeling drungkhag and Samtse dzongkhag.

The lower courts sentenced Rinchen Dorji to two years and six months with a penalty of Nu 536,602. Golay and Karchung were sentenced to one year and three months each with a fine of Nu 134,150 each. However, their sentences were compoundable.

The defendants requested the SC to overrule them. They said the dzongkhag administration informed them that Chugu road construction was illegal only after finishing the work. “The dzongkhag should be held accountable as they were the ones who gave permission.”

Defendants said they requested the lower courts to order the prosecutor, Office of the Attorney General (OAG), to present the members of the Samtse’s tender committee in the court.  However, the defendants said the lower courts passed the judgment without calling the members.  “We are not satisfied.”

On October 11, 2021, the OAG charged Rinchen Dorji, Golay, Karchung, Gewog Administrative Officer Yeshi Rangdol, and Gewog Engineer Aiman Limbu for illegal road construction.  OAG filed a case to the Tashichhoeling drungkhag court. The court also ordered Yeshi Rangdol and Aiman Limbu to pay a fine of Nu 3,750 each.

Appellants said that a letter from the dzongkhag on November 11, 2019, mentioned that two farm roads from Tsangma to Joenpang and Chugu, and Lingkhar to Baktong would be postponed, but there was no mention of any restriction.

They said the dzongkhag later cancelled the farm road construction from Lingkhar to Baktong, but not the one that goes from Tsangma to Joenpang and Chugu. “Seeing the benefit for 50 households, the road construction was endorsed by the dzongkhag.  The dzongkhag said they submitted relevant documents to the Department of Law and Order (DLO).”

Defendants also accused the dzongkhag of writing a fake letter stating that they have done realignment of the Tsangma to Joenpang and Chugu road in the presence of dzongkhag environment officer, planning officer, agriculture officer, gup and tshogpa. “If this letter is genuine, why did only the environment officer and planning officer sign the letter?”

Defendants said that the statement of dzongkhag is contradicting. “In 2019, the dzongkhag said that they have realigned the works after consultation with DLO, but in 2021 dzongkhag said that they haven’t received any response from the DLO.  This is misleading.”

Rinchen Dorji said that he has requested the lower courts to ask the dzongkhag to produce all the documents that they submitted to the DLO.  He said the courts rejected his request.

“The dzongkhag is not supposed to approve the work without an order from the DLO. However, they did it. The dzongkhag should be held accountable,” said the defendants.

The OAG stated that defendants have to reinstate the cost incurred by the government for road construction and damaging natural resources.

The OAG charged Rinchen Dorji on the grounds of lack of environmental clearance, encroachment on government land, official misconduct, breaching public security and tranquillity, and malicious mischief.

Golay and Karchung were charged with accomplice liability for malicious mischief and breaching public security and tranquillity. Yeshi Rangdol and Aiman Limbu were charged with failure to report the crime.

The OAG stated that Norgaygang gewog constructed the 1.53km Chugu farm road despite not having dzongkhag’s approval. “The construction was not approved based on security reasons, as the road was close to the border area.”