• The appellate court had initially fixed last Oct 24 for the hearing of Semantan Estate’s appeal, but senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan sought an adjournment following a negotiated settlement taking place.

PUTRAJAYA (May 10): With signs of a simmering settlement with the government in one of the longest-standing civil land disputes in history dissipating, the Court of Appeal (COA) has fixed Sept 19 to hear the appeal by Semantan Estate (1952) Sdn Bhd in its seven-decade dispute over 263.272 acres of land along Jalan Duta that is currently occupied by public properties.

The date was fixed following case management before COA senior assistant registrar Ahmad Izuddin Fajri Fakrullah on Wednesday.

The appellate court had initially fixed last Oct 24 for the hearing of Semantan Estate’s appeal, but senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan sought an adjournment following a negotiated settlement taking place.

“They (Semantan Estate) wrote to us as they want to facilitate negotiations,” Shamsul said, adding that the government will decide on the quantum of damages in mesne profit.

“There has been some development following a change in government and ministers. That put us in a difficult position to reach a settlement,” he added.

As a result, the bench, led by COA judge Datuk Lee Swee Seng, granted a final adjournment in hearing the appeal and said the hearing would resume should negotiations fail.

After several case managements, including Wednesday's, it seems the settlement is not forthcoming, and the Sept 19 hearing date is fixed.

The land in dispute is located along Jalan Duta in Mukim Batu, upon which sit the Malaysian Institute of Integrity, the National Archives, the Kuala Lumpur Syariah Court, the government complex building in Jalan Duta and the Federal Territory mosque.

The appeal involves Semantan Estate’s judicial review to reacquire the land titles to Semantan that the KL High Court had dismissed in 2021.

The dispute follows the acquisition of the land prior to Merdeka in 1956, which was to be transformed into a diplomatic enclave and hence the name “Duta”.

However, the acquisition was challenged and in 2009, the High Court ruled that the government had wrongly acquired the land and further ruled that it had trespassed on the land. The decision was affirmed by the COA in May 2012, and subsequently upheld by the Federal Court.

The government tried to review the Federal Court’s decision in 2012, but the apex court dismissed its application in November 2018.

Following that, it filed the judicial review application which was dismissed.

Besides this, the High Court is also hearing mesne profit damages sought by Semantan Estate. The company is seeking RM3.1 billion, but this amount may be increased to RM6.646 billion with simple interest and RM13.242 billion with compounded interest.

However, the government had argued that the compensation should be in the range of RM290 million.

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