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Federal Court rules RM80mil land in Perak belongs to 217 estate workers

Contributed by Anonymous on Wednesday, April 21 @ 03:32:49 CDT

Plantation Workers
The Star, Apr 21 2010
BY LISA GOH
PUTRAJAYA: It was a victorious moment for some 217 estate workers who, after a 16-year legal battle with lawyer Gurbachan Singh, have finally been declared as the rightful owners of a piece of land in Perak, now said to be worth about RM80mil.


In unanimously dismissing the leave application to appeal by Gurbachan and four others, a three-man Bench of the Federal Court upheld the Court of Appeal's ruling ordering the lawyer to return the 1,472ha piece of land in Hutan Melintang to the estate workers. The Bench comprised Court of Appeal President Justice Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, Federal Court judge Justice Hashim Yusoff, and Court of Appeal judge Justice Suriyadi Halim Omar. Some 20 workers who had turned up at the Federal Court on Wednesday were seen laughing and hugging each other outside the courtroom after the judgment was handed down on Wednesday. The court also granted them cost at RM25,000. Lawyer N.P. Ramachandran represented the workers, while lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar stood as counsel for Gurbachan. On July 6, 1994, P. Vellasamy, V. Balakrishnan, M. Krishnan and C. Mukan, on behalf of the 217 workers, had filed a suit against Gurbachan Singh and his firm, Bachan and Kartar Co. to retain their rights to the land. They named Gurbachan, his firm, Simpang Empat Plantations Sdn Bhd, Regal Establishment Sdn Bhd and MBF Finance Bhd as the defendants in their suit. In their statement of claim, the plaintiffs said they had appointed Gurbachan and his firm as their solicitors to advise them on taking appropriate legal action after discovering that the land would be auctioned off. They claimed Gurbachan had used Regal Establishment to purchase the land and changed the ownership of the land to the company. The plaintiffs said they discharged Gurbachan and his firm as their solicitors after realising Gurbachan had fraudulently misrepresented them. They sought for the court to declare the sale and purchase agreement entered between Gurbachan and them declared null and void. In their defence statement, the defendants denied all the above allegations. In Jan 2006, the Ipoh High Court dismissed their application and ruled that the lawyer had purchased the land in his personal capacity and had not bid for it on behalf of the workers in Sept 1992. The said land was auctioned off at RM4.58mil 18 years ago. In Dec last year, the Court of Appeal, in a majority 2-1 judgment, ordered Gurbachan to return the piece of land to the estate workers after allowing their appeal.

 
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