The Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid should stop his three-year “sleeping” on the gross injustice of the land law in the country allowing forgery of land titles and fraudulent land transfers and should get Cabinet approval tomorrow to introduce a bill to amend the National Land Code in the current parliamentary meeting to overrule the Federal Court decision on Adorna case.
Last week, the Director-General of Lands and Mines Department, Datuk Zoal Azha Yusof, who was promoted to the post last August from his previous position as Selangor’s Land and Mines Director, said there is a need to amend the National Land Code (NLC) to restore property owners’ rights which have been affected by Adorna Properties Sdn Bhd v Boonsom Bunyanit.
Zoal Azha said he would bring up the matter with the Attorney-General.
How long would this process take? Another two, three or five years?
Such procrastination and insensitivity to the gross injustice created by the Federal Court’s 2001 decision in Adorna case, which interpreted Section 340 of the NLC to favour innocent buyers of land transferred through forgery or fraud, has destroyed the integrity of land titles, leaving the original owners without any means to recover their land. It reflects very poorly on a government which claims to be efficient, just and pro-active in allowing a gross injustice in the land law to stay unchallenged for the past seven years.
The Adorna case is a heart-rending tale which took more than a decade before it finally ended with gross injustice to the rightful owner.
Boonsom, a woman of Thai descent, owned two plots of land in Tanjong Bungah, Penang worth about RM12 million. Unknown to her, the land was transferred to a company, Adorna Properties, by an imposter who in 1989 held herself out as the true owner who had lost the original title to the land and subsequently obtained a certified copy of the title.
Upon discovering the fraud, forgery and deceit, Boonsom went to court to challenge the validity of the transfer of her land to Adorna Properties by the imposter.
The High Court ruled in favour of Adorna in April 1995, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal in March 1997, but the Federal Court headed by Eusoff Chin overruled the Court of Appeal in favour of Adorna in December 2000. Two unsuccessful attempts had been subsequently made by Boonyanit’s family (as Boonsoom had since died) asking the Federal Court to review the main judgment — in Febrary 2001 and August 2004.
As a result, the current position of the law is that the fraudster and forger is capable of transferring a good title to a purchaser who buys the subject property in good faith and for a valuable consideration — spawning crimes of forgery of land titles by syndicates compromising the computerized land registration system and implicating “inside people” in the land offices followed by fraudulent land transfers resulting in several registered proprietors and purchasers losing millions of ringgit.
From what had been reported in the press, landowners who have fallen victim to such forgers and fraudsters, as well as the gross injustice of the land law as laid down by the Federal Court in the Adorna case, easily run into hundreds, and is a nation-wide problem although it is most prevalent in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang and Johore.
As the Minister responsible for the Land and Mines Department for the past three years, Azmi should explain why he had shut his eyes to such blatant injustice in the land law which nullifies the constitutional guarantee of sanctity of property in Article 13 of the Federal Constitution and why he had never taken up the matter to the Cabinet.
It is also most shocking that in the past seven years of the gross injustice of the Adorna case, not a single Minister had thought it fit or proper to raise it in Cabinet on the urgent need to amend the National Land Code to end the manifest injustice — again providing proof to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s strictures on a “half-past six Cabinet”.