Judgments and orders – Orders – Compliance of – Aggrieved party appealed to High Court – High Court ordered remittance of matter to District Commissioner for Land Titles for redetermination – Whether High Court seized with jurisdiction to hear appeal – Whether High Court order valid – Whether there was appeal or application to set aside High Court order

Ann Joo Steel Bhd v Pengarah Tanah dan Galian Negeri Pulau Pinang & Anor and Another Appeal
[2019] 9 CLJ 153, Federal Court

see the grounds of judgment here

Facts The two appeals before the Federal Court were related to the issue on the sanctity and validity of an order of the High Court at Pulau Pinang made in 1995 (“the Order”). The Order was perfected and not appealed against or set aside. The Order was challenged on the basis that, it was made in excess of jurisdiction, hence liable to be set aside. This challenge was brought upon as a defence to a trespass suit filed about ten years after the order was made. The High Court had allowed the trespass suit and dismissed the challenge made on the Order, but it was reversed by the Court of Appeal. The appeals also emanated from a claim of trespass filed by the plaintiff, Ann Joo Steel Berhad against Tenaga Nasional Berhad as the first defendant, Pengarah Tanah dan Galian Negeri Pulau Pinang, the second defendant and Mohd Noor bin Rejab, the officer of Pengarah Tanah dan Galian Negeri Pulau Pinang, the third defendant in 2010. (The parties in this judgment will be referred to as they were referred to in the High Court).

Issues The main issue is whether the defendants can challenge the Order by just raising it in the defence to the trespass suit by the plaintiff.

Held In allowing the appeal, the Federal Court set aside the order of the Court of Appeal in the view that the defendants should not be allowed to impugn the Order after they sat on the Order for a span of 15 over years, only to raise it as a defence to an action of trespass. If this is allowed, it will lead to serious implications - floodgates will be opened to a never-ending litigation and it removes the valued certainty that court’s process provides. It will also allow a backdoor way of appealing on a decision of the court, way out of the given time under the law.