Land acquisition’s chequered history


IN the early days of land acquisition in Malaysia, the Land Administrator holds an inquiry after a Section 8 notice under the Land Acquisition Act (LAA) is issued to a land owner.

A Section 8 notice is a declaration of the acquisition of a said piece of land to the land owner.

“The land administrator would be assisted by the assessor, usually the Government’s valuation officer, on technical matters. If the land owner objected to the amount, the administrator will refer the objection to the High Court in a land reference,” says a retired judge who was also in legal practice before his elevation.

“In the 1970s, one judge sat with two assessors but it was the judge who made the determination of adequate compensation.

“From 1984 to the end of the 1980s, a single judge sat alone. This coincided with the land acquisitions for KLIA, the estate lands that would help make up Putrajaya and the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link.”

But because there was much unhappiness on the part of some state agencies and land owners on the compensations of the judge, the Executive and Legislature amended the LAA in 1998 to introduce Section 40D for two assessors to sit with the High Court judge again, he adds.

“This time, however, the judge was deprived of his judicial powers and it was the assessors who determined the compensation. Even in a disagreement between the assessors on the quantum of compensation, the judge could only pick one or the other.

“Further, the decision made was final and non-appealable.

“Happily, the Federal Court has declared Section 40D unconstitutional and restored judicial power. The assessors now just provide advice that is not binding on the judge.”

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Land Acquisition Act