THE owner of the 110-year-old Vivekananda Ashram building and the land around it has applied to initiate judicial review proceedings to compel the National Heritage Department commissioner to gazette only the building as a heritage site.
The company – The Vivekananda Ashrama Kuala Lumpur – wants to be able to develop the surrounding land and be allowed to use the property as it deemed fit.
Alternatively, the company is seeking more than RM60mil in damages on grounds that it had been denied its fundamental right to use the property for the purposes of development as initially planned.
It is also seeking an order to set aside notices from the department and commissioner for an interim protection order dated Jan 5 and April 23 denying the company use of the property.
The company is asking for a temporary injunctive order barring any action against it and the building’s site until the final disposal of the proceedings.
In its leave application, the company named the department, its commissioner Dr Zainah Ibrahim, Tourism and Culture Ministry, and its minister as respondents.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing in chambers, lead counsel Datuk David Gurupatham said although it wanted the Government to preserve the building and keep its statue under heritage status, the company had to consider its surrounding land because it involved a “master title”.
“The ashram takes care of four Tamil schools involving 2,500 students.
“The Government pays for the teachers but the extracurricular activities for the benefit of the students are being handled using donations. How will it survive if there is no money?” said David.
He said the company had updated accounts and tendered a list of their donors for the past 10 years for the court’s reference.
“The objective of the company does not allow payment for the board of directors as it is charity,” he said, adding that a mandate was given by its members to find a solution to develop the land.
Senior Federal Counsel Mazlifah Ayob said she needed to confirm further with Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz on his decision regarding the status of the heritage site.
“We will later decide whether to raise an objection after looking into their affidavit,” she said, adding that High Court judge (Appellate and Special Powers) Justice Asmabi Mohamad had set Nov 26 to hear their submissions.
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