It’s not arbitary

Court said temple’s acquisition based on planning factors

AN APPEAL by three devotees to get back the site of their 66-year-old temple off Bartley Road has been dismissed. In an 18-page judgment released on Monday, the Court of Appeal rejected the trio’s contention that the Government’s acquisition of the land had violated the Republic’s Constitution.

The three devotees of Jin Long Si Temple – Ms Eng Foong Ho, Mr Hue Guan Koon and Ms Ang Beng Woon – alleged that they had not been treated on par with other worshippers. They said only the temple site was being acquired though other religious institutions – the Ramakrishna Mission and Bartley Christian Church – were also located in the residential area.

Justice Andrew Phang said an executive act “may be unconstitutional if it amounts to intentional and arbitrary discrimination”. But, he pointed out, the devotees had not alleged any arbitrary action on the part of the Government; they had also conceded that the acquisition had proceeded in good faith.

The Jin Long Si Temple site was acquired by the Government in January 2003 for comprehensive redevelopment in conjunction with the construction of the new Bartley MRT station along the Circle Line.

The temple site and the adjoining State land – the former Millenia Institute site – are slated for high-density residential use. The temple was given five years, until Jan 31 last year, to relocate.

Justice Phang said the temple property, which lies at a corner, would help make up a substantial plot of State land. “Its amalgamation with the State land would not only appear reasonable but would also enable the entire plot of land to be developed in as optimal a fashion as possible,” he said.

The judge said “it is clear” the Collector of Land Revenue had arrived at his decision to acquire the temple property “based solely on planning considerations”.

Over the years, several places of worship have been relocated to make way for redevelopment, including the Sri Marathadi Muneeswarar at Upper Changi Road North, the Velmurugan Temple along Bukit Merah and Sri Mariamman Muneeswarar Temple at Jalan Kayu.

A MinLaw spokes woman said: “The Singapore Land Authority will discuss with the temple trustees on the relocation of the temple to their earlier preferred site at Tai Seng Avenue. The schedule for the move will be discussed with the temple trustees as there is a need to prepare the site for sale.”.

The Government also said it would take steps to preserve the temple’s 100-year-old Bodhi Tree. Tender conditions for the site’s redevelopment will require the developer ensure the tree’s retention.

Source : Today – 7 Jan 2009

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