PETALING JAYA: The Court of Appeal today declared a public objection hearing by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) for a high-density project on Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan land null and void.
The project to construct three high-rise towers in Taman Tiara Titiwangsa has been rejected by its residents, who went to the courts to nullify the objection hearing held by DBKL last year.
The residents cited grounds that they were unable to present their case in a “meaningful” way under Rule 5 of the Federal Territory Planning Act 1982, which is designed to allow public participation in areas of planning and development control.
It is claimed that DBKL had failed to provide a detailed explanation and technical reports on the project such as the traffic impact and social impact assessment during the hearing, which were documents requested by the residents.
Taking the matter to court, the residents also raised the issue of bias by the KL mayor, who happens to sit on the board of Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court had, in June 2018, dismissed the resident’s objection to the hearing but the residents appealed to the Court of Appeal.
Speaking to FMT, lawyer LS Leonard, who represented the residents, said the Court of Appeal ruled that the residents should have been allowed to obtain the documents even though Rule 5 did not require DBKL to do so.
“The Court of Appeal also agreed that there is an element of bias because the DBKL mayor who is the decision maker (to the project) also sits as the director and trustee for the landowner, Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan.
“This decision means that local authorities like DBKL must conduct a public hearing with fairness and without any bias,” said Leonard.
Leonard added that local authorities must also abide by the “rules of natural justice” which must be read together with Article 5 and Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, by providing relevant documents to the public to facilitate the objection process.
Lawyer Derek Fernandez, meanwhile, said today’s decision was crucial in highlighting the unhealthy relationship between DBKL, Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan and the federal territories ministry.
“The Court of Appeal’s decision raises serious questions regarding the impartiality of DBKL at Rule 5 hearings,” he told FMT.
He said the likelihood of bias and conflict of interest would be clear and the court had held that this was not acceptable in proper administrative decision making.