“Whether landowners or occupants have any rights or interest over trees planted on land that do not belong to them?”
ABDUL LATIF BIN PUTEH & 347 ORS V PENTADBIR TANAH JAJAHAN PASIR MAS & ANOR [2022 5 AMR 413]
- Abdul Latif and 347 other Appellants (“Occupants”) claimed to be participants in what is known as Tanah Rancangan FELCRA Bukit Tandak since early 1980s and were allocated 6 acres of land on which they had planted their own palm oil and rubber trees.
- This was allegedly done pursuant to a letter of approval from 1st Respondent (“Pentadbir Tanah Jajahan Pasir Mas”) to FELCRA of 24 June 1979. Their alleged participation was said to be with the approval of the 2nd Respondent (“State Government of Kelantan”).
- An agreement was supposed to have been signed between the Kelantan State Government and FELCRA Berhad but, although an agreement existed in draft, it was never executed.
- It was pleaded by the Occupants in their Statement of Claim that the land in question was never alienated/given to them.
- Sometime in 2014, the Kelantan State Government reduced the area of land that was allocated to the Occupants to only 3 acres of land. As a result, the Occupants commenced a legal action against Pentadbir Tanah Jajahan Pasir Mas and the Kelantan State Government [Respondent].
- The Respondent contested that the Occupants had no rights or interest to the land in question. As a matter of law, the Respondents claimed that the Occupants cannot segregate the rubber trees planted on the land from the land itself. The rubber trees are to be regarded as part of land and the land in question was a State land to which the Occupants have no right to or interest in.
- The High Court dismissed the Occupants claim and concluded that the action against the Respondents was obviously unsustainable.
- The High Court went on to say that as long the land is not land given to the Occupants, the rubber trees planted on the land are part of the land and they do not and cannot belong to the Occupants.
- The Occupants went on to file an appeal against the High Court’s decision.
COURT OF APPEAL – APPEAL DISMISSED!
- The Court of Appeal held that the mere occupation of the land by the Occupants will not per se remove the 2nd Respondent’s interest in the land or anything that falls within the definition of land under the National Land Code (“NLC”).
- The rubber trees even if planted by the Occupants or their predecessors, fall within the definition of land under the NLC. Whilst a rubber seed prior to being planted may be regarded as their personal property, its legal nature was altered once it is planted.
- The claims against Pentadbir Tanah Jajahan Pasir Mas and the State Government of Kelantan were therefore obviously unsustainable and is to be dismissed.