28 January 2021

Orchard Circle Sdn Bhd v Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Hulu Langat & Ors                       [2021] 1 CLJ 1

The matter in Orchard Circle Sdn Bhd v Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Hulu Langat & Ors concerned the acquisition of part of two parcels of land (“Lands”) owned by the appellant, Orchard Circle Sdn Bhd, by the State Authority. A declaration of the Land Acquisition Act 1960 (“LAA”) (“Form D”) was issued to compulsorily acquire the Lands in 2001. An inquiry before the Land Administrator was held a year after and the appellant was informed that the compensation that would be awarded for the acquisition of the Lands was a nominal RM1, as a portion of the Lands had already been surrendered to the State Authority. The appellant then, alleging that it was not given a right of hearing at the first land inquiry, filed a judicial review application in the High Court for an order, amongst others, to quash the award of compensation or, alternatively, for a declaration that the acquisition of the Lands was null and void.

Nine years after the issuance of Form D, the High Court judge allowed the judicial review application and ordered (a) a certiorari quashing the award and (b) a mandamus remitting the matter back to the land office for a fresh land inquiry (“first High Court decision”). The appellant, dissatisfied with the decision of the second land inquiry, filed a second judicial review application. In allowing the second judicial review application, the High Court judge made, inter alia, the following orders:

  • Pursuant to section 8(4) of the LAA, the validity of Form D was only for a period of two years from the date of its publication in the Gazette and as the award given in the second land inquiry was handed down nine years after the expiration of Form D, the award, Form D and all proceedings following thereon were quashed;
  • The appellant was the lawful proprietor of the Lands and was entitled to possession thereof;
  • The appellant’s alternative prayers for a declaration that there was no surrender of land to the State Authority was dismissed; and
  • The appellant’s reliefs for, inter alia, damages were dismissed.

Dissatisfied with the decision again, the appellant appealed. The appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal and granted leave to appeal to the Federal Court on the following questions of law:

  • Whether, pursuant to section 8(4) of the LAA, a declaration in Form D lapsed and ceased to be of any effect where an award of the Land Administrator was made within the stipulated two-year period but subsequently quashed resulting in a subsequent award made outside the two-year period; and
  • Whether issues of res judicata and estoppel could clothe a declaration in Form D with legal effect.

The Federal Court in dismissing the appeal held as follows:

  • A literal reading of section 8(4) of the LAA shows that the said provision only applies if the Land Administrator had not made an award within two years from the date of the issuance of Form D. The facts here showed that the first award was well within the two-year period. The second land inquiry was only to substitute the first land inquiry. The issue of land acquisition and Form D were never declared as null and void by the court.
  • The appellant benefited from the first judicial review application, the effect of which was the quashing of the first award, and proceeded with a second land inquiry, in which the appellant had participated. The first High Court decision indicated that Form D was still valid. The appellant was therefore precluded and estopped from challenging the validity of Form D in its second judicial review application.
  • The issues regarding the validity of the acquisition proceedings and whether the appellant was still the lawful proprietor of the Lands were previously raised in the first judicial review application and it would be an abuse of court process to allow the appellant to renew its challenge on the propriety of the land acquisition proceedings in the second judicial review proceeding. Clearly, these two issues were caught by the doctrine of res judicata.