Court of Appeal declares Jais’ land acquisition for mosque illegal

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal ruled that the Selangor Islamic Religious Department's (Jais) acquisition of a 10.52ha land from a developer to construct a mosque in Batang Berjuntai (Bestari Jaya), is illegal.

In delivering the landmark decision, Justice Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim said the High Court had made erroneous findings of fact and law as well as failed to appreciate the evidence presented before it.

"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 who headed the three-man bench said when delivering the judgment, today.

In allowing the appeal by the plaintiff United Allied Empire Sdn Bhd (UAE), the Court of Appeal bench also granted all the 24 reliefs sought by UAE, including the assessment of damages for the wrongful acquisition.

As such, the court granted a total of RM50,000 in costs to UAE for proceedings here and in the High Court, to be paid by four respondents, which included the Selangor Land and Mines Department director, the Kuala Selangor land administrator, Jais and the Selangor government.

The court also awarded another RM50,000 to be paid by two others which UAE had sued, namely the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and Selangor Zakat Board (LZS) ro UAE.

Meanwhile, lawyer Rosli Dahlan who represented UAE told reporters that the judgment has resulted in landmark changes to land acquisition law.

"This case clarifies the legal position on the rights of landowners regarding procedures for land acquisition.

"The procedures must be strictly followed because land ownership is a fundamental right under the Federal Constitution and compulsory deprivation is draconian," he said.

In 2013, UAE had submitted an application to develop its 10.52ha land and provided 0.4ha for a mosque.

However, the state through Jais had compulsorily acquired the entire 10.52ha purportedly to construct a mega-mosque, religious school and a burial site among others.

Under Article 13 of the Federal Constitution, compulsory acquisition of private land was only allowed if it benefited the public and if property owners received adequate compensation.

After failing to get the Selangor Mentri Besar and the Prime Minister to intervene in the dispute, UAE then filed a a judicial review and alleged that the acquisition was mala fide to create a land bank for the religious authorities in Selangor.

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 authorities.

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