Court: Acquisition of 26-acre land for mosque unlawful

Rosli-Dahlan

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal today ruled that the acquisition of a 26-acre piece of land belonging to a developer for the construction of a mosque in Batang Berjuntai, Selangor was illegal.

A three-man bench chaired by Justice Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim said the High Court failed to appreciate the evidence before it and made erroneous findings of fact and law.

“This is a fit and proper case for appellate intervention when the findings and judgment by the High Court is not supported by evidence and in fact contradicted the evidence,” Abang Iskandar said in allowing the appeal by United Allied Empire Sdn Bhd (UAE).

The bench also granted all the 24 reliefs sought by UAE, includng the assessment of damages for the wrongful acquisition.

The court awarded costs amounting to RM50,000 against the Selangor director of lands and mines, land administrator and the state government of Selangor.

The court also awarded costs of RM50,000 against the Selangor religious authorities and Selangor Zakat Board.

Lawyer Rosli Dahlan, appearing for UAE, told reporters that this judgment had made landmark changes to land acquisition law.

“This case clarifies the legal position of rights of landowners in that the procedure on land acquisition must be strictly followed because land ownership is a fundamental right under the Federal Constitution and compulsory deprivation is draconian,” he said.

Last November, the Court of Appeal had expunged a legal opinion given by the Attorney-General’s Chambers which attempted to persuade the bench not to consider a circular drafted by the Attorney-General’s Chambers on vesting of land ownership to the state.

In 2013, UAE submitted approval to develop its 26-acre land and provided one acre for a mosque.

Instead, the state compulsorily acquired the entire 26 acres purportedly to build the 26-acre mosque.

The developer sought intervention from the Selangor menteri besar and the prime minister but did not get any assistance.

UAE then filed a judicial review and alleged that the acquisition was mala fide to create a land bank for the religious authorities in Selangor.

Rosli had previously urged the court to prevent the religious authorities “not to rob in the name of God”.

He had also demonstrated that the evidence given by religious authorities contradicted the reasons for the acquisition which was published in the government gazette.

Apart from Rosli, UAE was represented by Bahari Yeow and Ho Ai Ting while the Selangor assistant state legal adviser Naziah Mokhtar appeared for the state authorites.

Lawyers Kamaazura Md Kamel and Siti Rahimah Khalil represented the state religious authorities.