HC upholds district court verdict on Talo and Toep gewog water issue

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Upholding the decision of the Punakha district court, Thimphu high court ordered the 32 villagers from five villages of Toep gewog, Punakha who were charged in Punakha court in 2018 for their involvement in destroying three reservoir tanks and water supply pipelines of the neighboring gewog of Talo to pay thrimthue ranging from six months to one year considering the mitigating and extenuating circumstances on November 29 this year.

The defendants had appealed to HC on May 7, 2018.

The court summoned two gups of Talo and Toep gewog of Punakha dzongkha along with the prosecutors and relevant agencies.

Under the direction of the court the parties had submitted by involving the villages of two gewogs wherein they decided to share the water sources by increasing the intake pipe from half inch to one inch including the three small sources to be tapped by the people of Rinakha village under Talo gewog and that the compensation which was to be given to the people of Laptshakha was exonerated and that all the future water scarcity between the two gewogs will be sorted out by finding just an amicable solution involving the Dzongkhag administration from other available and non-controversial water sources.

Stating the verdict to be first of its kind, Justice Lungten Dubgjur said that such dispute owing to scarcity of resources should find out of box solution where just judging who is right and wrong at times bred contempt, disharmony among peace loving communities.

“While it is also important to realize that the provision of our laws are upheld and that no one whether community as a whole or otherwise can law in their own hands. We believe that in such kind of future dispute it is a good lesson that all stakeholders must be taken into confidence so that the individuals and institutional authority shoulder their just and lawful responsibility,” said the Justice.

He also mentioned that they are happy that all the parties involved are contented with the decision and none of them have preferred an appeal.

The court had sentenced the 32 villagers to prison terms ranging from six months to a year on May 3 last year. The verdict was passed on May 3 2018.

The verdict stated that defendants pay thrimthue in lieu of imprisonment and the villagers have to restitute Nu 15,721 each to Talo gewog administration amounting to Nu 487,350 in total.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) had charged 20 villagers for malicious mischief and they are liable for misdemeanor.

The 20 villagers were found guilty of malicious mischief and were held liable for a misdemeanor. The court ordered them a year in prison each.

Another 12 villagers were convicted of criminal conspiracy for their involvement in planning the damage.

In December 2013, learning that the water supply for Gangthrangmo and Hapiding villages in Talo gewog would be drawn from above their village, the villagers from Rinakha and Damchi of Toep gewog raised their objection with the dzongdag. The villagers complained that they were facing a water shortage that led to fields remaining fallow.

When works to lay the water supply pipes began in January 2014, villagers of Rinakha and Damchi requested the dzongdag to identify a different water source for Ganthrangmo and Hapiding villages.

Talo gewog used Nu 207,000 from its gewog development grant for the project under the rural water supply scheme that would benefit 120 households, a school, and other public service offices in the villages. Work was completed in December 2015.

In February 2016, Talo gewog found out that three small water reservoirs at Pangchung Serpo and the pipes were destroyed and reported to the police. Investigation revealed that villagers from Rinakha, Sitokha, Damchi, Lumjam, and Chhandana villages were involved in the crime.

The villagers had in a meeting decided to destroy the water supply line. Seven senior individuals including the village tshogpa allegedly agreed to be the ones answerable in case of inquiries from authorities. On January 2016, 20 of the villagers went to Pangchung Serpo and allegedly pulled apart the reservoir tanks and pipes built for Gangthrangmo.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu

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