Friday, January 22, 2010

Overturning Boonsom Boonyanit

Mahkamah Persekutuan hari ini mengubah penghakiman 10 tahun lalu yang dibuatnya dalam kes Adorna Properties Sdn Bhd lawan Boonsom Boonyanit yang sekaligus membuka peluang kepada pemilik tanah yang kehilangan tanah mereka secara tidak sah mendapatkan harta mereka semula.

Keputusan menukar penghakiman itu dibuat sebulat suara oleh lima hakim yang diketuai oleh Ketua Hakim Negara, Tun Zaki Azmi (kiri).

Mereka menukar keputusan yang yang dibuat oleh panel tiga hakim yang diketuai mantan Ketua Hakim Negara, Tun Eusoff Chin pada 2000.

Menurut Zaki adalah menjadi tanggungjawab perundangannya membetulkan kesilapan yang sebegitu nyata dan jelas.

“Adalah menjadi fakta yang jelas, bahawa ada orang yang tidak bertanggungjawab mengambil kesempatan dengan kesilapan itu dengan secara menipu memindahkan hak tanah berkenaan kepada diri mereka sendiri.

“Saya berharap dengan keputusan ini, pihak berkuasa akan lebih berhati-hati apabila mendaftarkan pemindahan hak milik tanah.”

Penghakiman akan babitkan 30 pemilik tanah

Dianggarkan 30 pemilik tanah akan terbabit dengan keputusan penghakiman hari ini.

Kes berkenaan dicetuskan oleh Boonsom Boonyanit, yang menetap di Thailand dan mempunyai dua petak tanah di Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang.

Pada tahun 1988, seorang wanita yang mendakwa dirinya sebagai Boonsoom Boonyanit membuat pengakuan bersumpah bahawa geran kedua-dua tanah berkenaan telah hilang.

Wanita itu berjaya mendapatkan Pejabat Tanah mengeluarkan sijil hak milik dan kemudiannya menjual tanah berkenaan kepada Adorna Properties dengan nilai RM12 juta.

Menyedari tanahnya dijual tanpa pengetahuannya, Boonyanit menyaman Adorna Properties.

Pada 1995, Mahkamah Tinggi Pulau Pinang membuat penghakiman yang memihak kepada Adorna Properties dengan alasan pemindahan itu sah walaupun tanah berkenaan diperolehi secara menipu.

Boonyanit membuat rayuan di Mahkamah Rayuan yang dianggotai oleh Gopal Sri Ram, Siti Norma Yaakob dan Ahmad Fairuz. Mereka membuat keputusan yang memihak Boonyanit pada 1997.

Adorna pula membuat rayuan balas kepada Mahkamah Persekutuan pada 2000 yang terdiri dari Eusoff Chin (atas), Wan Adnan Ismail and Abu Mansor Ali. Kali ini, keputusan memihak pula kepada Adorna.

Bagaimanapun, ketika itu, Boonyanit telah meninggal dunia.


1. I had the privilege of reading the draft of my learned Chief Judge of Malaya Arifin Zakaria’s grounds of judgment. I must give him credit for having traced the history of decisions made on the interpretation of section 3401 of the National Land Code 1965 (NLC). I agree with his conclusions.

2. I wish to, however, express my own views in support of that judgment.

3. The facts of this case, which are not disputed, have been well narrated in his judgment and I do not wish to repeat them here.

4. I would like to look at section 340 of the NLC in a more simplified manner.

5. Let us refer to the first owner of a piece of land as “A” who then transfers the same piece of land to “B” and which subsequently is transferred to “C”.

6. As far as section 340 (1) of the NLC is concerned, A’s title to the land is totally indefeasible. In short if A’s name appears on the registration, no one can come and claim for that title. The law will not entertain it at all.

7. Now comes the next person, B, whose name appears in the register. If it can be shown that the title or interests obtained by B was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation by him or anyone else to which he was a  party or privy then his claim to the title or interest can be defeated. (See s.340 (2)(a) of the NLC). Otherwise B stands in the same position as A.

8. The situation where it is proved that the registration in B’s name was obtained by forgery or by means of an insufficient or void instrument is the same (See section 340 (2) (b) of the NLC). His title or interest to the land is liable to be set aside by the previous owner who has a good title. In this latter instance, there is no need to show that B was a party or privy to that forgery or to obtaining the title or interest by a void instrument.

9. The third instance where B’s title or interest could be defeated is where it was unlawfully acquired through the exercise of any power or authority conferred by any law. Section 340(2)(c) of the NLC deals with one who was for example acting in his capacity as an agent to a power of attorney. Even if C is in the same position as B, sub-section (3) also does not give protection to C unless he can show that he had acquired the title or interest in good faith and for valuable consideration. Any title or interest gained by any person thereafter is also liable to be set aside unless it could be shown that he had acquired it in good faith and for valuable consideration. This is what is called deferred indefeasibility of title. If his title or interest is challenged on similar grounds, the burden of proving there was valuable consideration and good faith lies on him.

10. As far as I am concerned, that is the simplest way of looking at section 340 of the NLC. I totally agree with the learned Chief Judge of Malaya’s view that the error committed by the Federal Court in Adorna Properties Sdn. Bhd. v Boonsom Boonyanit @ Sun Yok Eng2 was to read the proviso to sub-section (3) as being a proviso to sub-section (2) as well. The error is very obvious because the proviso expressly refers to “this sub-section” which must in the context of that sub-section be read as proviso to sub-section (3) only.

11. I am legally obligated to restate the law since the error committed in Adorna Properties is so obvious and blatant. It is quite a well known fact that some unscrupulous people have been taking advantage of this error by falsely transferring titles to themselves. I hope that with this decision, the Land Authorities will be extra cautious when registering transfers.

12. In the circumstances and for the reason mentioned above, I would concur with the Chief Judge of Malaya Arifin Zakaria, allow this appeal and make the same orders made by him. I also agree that the costs of this appeal and the Courts below be awarded to the appellant.

Dated : 21st January 2010
Chief Justice

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