Chiu Teng @ Kallang Pte Ltd v Singapore Land Authority

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Judgment Date27 Nov 2013
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 457 of 2013

[2013] SGHC 262

High Court

Tay Yong Kwang J

Originating Summons No 457 of 2013

Chiu Teng @ Kallang Pte Ltd
Plaintiff
and
Singapore Land Authority
Defendant

Alvin Yeo SC, Lim Wei Lee, Lionel Leo and Edmund Koh (Wong Partnership LLP) for the applicant

Edwin Tong, Kristy Tan and Peh Aik Hin (Allen & Gledhill LLP) for the respondent

Aurill Kam, Lim Wei Shin, Terence Ang and Leon Ryan (Attorney-General's Chambers) for the Attorney-General.

Agraira v Canada (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness) (2013) Carswell Nat 1983 (refd)

Annetts v Mc Cann (1990) 170 CLR 596; 97 ALR 177 (refd)

Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corp [1948] 1 KB 223 (folld)

Borissik Svetlana v Urban Redevelopment Authority [2009] 4 SLR (R) 92; [2009] 4 SLR 92 (folld)

Chee Siok Chin v Minister for Home Affairs [2006] 1 SLR (R) 582; [2006] 1 SLR 582 (refd)

Chng Suan Tze v Minister for Home Affairs [1988] 2 SLR (R) 525; [1988] SLR 132 (folld)

Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister of the Civil Service [1985] AC 374 (folld)

H 156, The [1999] 2 SLR (R) 419; [1999] 3 SLR 756 (refd)

Habib v Commonwealth (No 2) (2009) 254 ALR 250 (not folld)

Jeyaretnam Kenneth Andrew v AG [2013] 1 SLR 619, HC (folld)

Jeyaretnam Kenneth Andrew v AG [2014] 1 SLR 345, CA (folld)

Lee Hsien Loong v Review Publishing Co Ltd [2007] 2 SLR (R) 453; [2007] 2 SLR 453 (folld)

Lever (Finance) Ltd v Westminster Corp [1970] 3 All ER 496 (refd)

Manjit Singh s/o Kirpal Singh v AG [2013] 4 SLR 483 (refd)

Marta Stefan v General Medical Council [1999] 1 WLR 1293 (folld)

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs v Teoh (1995) 183 CLR 273 (refd)

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Re; ex parte Lam [2003] 214 CLR 1; 72 ALD 613 (not folld)

Mount Sinai Hospital Center v Quebec (Minister of Health and Social Services) [2001] 2 SCR 281 (refd)

Ng Siu Tung v Director of Immigration [2002] 1 HKLRD 561 (refd)

Pacific Recreation Pte Ltd v SYTechnology Inc [2008] 2 SLR (R) 491; [2008] 2 SLR 491 (refd)

Preston, Re [1985] AC 835 (refd)

R v DPP, ex parte Kebilene [2000] 2 AC 326 (refd)

R v Hillingdon London Borough Council, ex parte Royco Homes Ltd [1974] QB 720 (refd)

R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Fire Brigades Union [1995] 2 AC 513 (refd)

R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Ruddock [1987] 1 WLR 1482 (refd)

R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Swati [1986] 1 WLR 477 (folld)

R (Bhatt Murphy) v Independent Assessor [2008] EWCA Civ 755 (refd)

R (Patel) v General Medical Council [2013] 1 WLR 2801 (refd)

R (Reprotech (Pebsham) Ltd) v East Sussex County Council [2003] 1 WLR 348 (refd)

Rush v Commissioner of Police (2006) 150 FCR 165 (not folld)

Schmidt v Secretary of State for Home Affairs [1969] 2 Ch 149 (refd)

South Bucks District Council v Flanagan [2002] 1 WLR 2601 (refd)

Teng Fuh Holdings Pte Ltd v Collector of Land Revenue [2007] 2 SLR (R) 568; [2007] 2 SLR 568 (folld)

UDL Marine (Singapore) Pte Ltd v Jurong Town Corp [2011] 3 SLR 94 (folld)

Yong Vui Kong v AG [2011] 2 SLR 1189 (refd)

Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1985 Rev Ed,1999 Reprint) Art 22 P (1)

Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Rev Ed) s 47

Land Acquisition Act (Cap 152, 1985 Rev Ed) s 33 (5) (e)

Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2006 Rev Ed) O 53 r 1 (6) (consd)

Singapore Land Authority Act (Cap 301, 2002 Rev Ed) ss 6 (1) (a) , 6 (1) (e) (iv)

Administrative Law—Judicial review—Respondent, contrary to its circulars and website, not assessing differential premium payable for lifting title restrictions in accordance with Development Charge Table of Rates and instead assessing it through spot valuation—Whether application for leave was out of time—Whether applicant had exhausted all possible remedies—Whether respondent's actions were irrational and/or unreasonable—Whether doctrine of substantive legitimate expectations ought to be recognised in Singapore law—Whether applicant could avail itself of doctrine of substantive legitimate expectations

The applicant was a company in the business of property development. The applicant acquired two plots of land (Lots 1338 M and 2818 V, collectively known as ‘the Land’) through competitive tenders for the purpose of redevelopment.

Generally, state land was sold at a price based on the proposed use and intensity at the time of sale. State leases usually specified, as a condition in the lease, the permissible use of the land under the lease and the maximum gross floor area for the said permissible use. The lease documents for both plots contained two references to the payment of a differential premium (‘DP’). The first, the ‘DP Clause’, stated that a differential premium was payable in respect of any increase in floor area or change of use from a lower use category to a higher use category which would result in an enhanced value. The second, the ‘Land Return Clause’, stipulated that the lessee was to notify the government of any portions of land not used for specified purposes; if directed, the lessee was to surrender back to the government land that was not used for the specified purposes at Land Acquisition Act rates. If no such direction was forthcoming within a year, the government would lift title restrictions subject to the payment of a differential premium.

The Singapore Land Authority (‘SLA’) published two circulars and maintained a website to provide the public with information on how the payable DP was calculated. The first circular, published in 2000, stated inter alia that the SLA had implemented a transparent system of determination of DP, which would be based on the published Table of Development Charge (‘DC Table’) rates. A number of exceptions were listed, but none of these applied to the applicant. The second circular, published in 2007, was materially similar to the first circular. The SLA's website also stated that DP was calculated based on DC Table rates, and also listed exceptions which were not applicable to the applicant. The website went on to detail an appeal process, whereby developers not satisfied with the DC Table of Rates could write in to appeal, after which the SLA would consult the Chief Valuer for a spot valuation. The website's terms of use stated, inter alia, that the SLA was not making any representations or warranties whatsoever, and in particular did not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy and completeness of the website.

On 25 January 2011, the applicant submitted an application to the SLA for the lifting of title restrictions on the Land for the purposes of redevelopment. On 15 March 2011, the SLA in its reply said that the tenures of both plots of land had to be aligned, and this would involve the surrender and re-issue of the lease of Lot 1338 M. Between March and November 2011, the applicant made various telephone calls and e-mails to rush the SLA. In the meantime, the applicant obtained the requisite construction permit on 8 April 2011 and started construction work despite the lack of response from the SLA. Finally, on 29 November 2011, the SLA replied and stated that ‘differential premium equal to 100% of the enhancement to land value as assessed by the Chief Valuer would be levied for the lifting of title restrictions.’ On 20 February 2013, the SLA wrote to the applicant stating that it was prepared to lift the title restriction upon payment of $44,067,828.23. In a further letter dated 3 April 2013, the SLA clarified that this sum was determined by the Chief Valuer, and that the DC Table rates were not adopted. In its reply on 9 April 2013, the applicant took the position that if the DC Table rates were applicable, the applicant would have paid $11,175,115.00 instead. On 11 April 2013, the SLA explained that the applicant's case was different from conventional leasehold sites because the Land was formerly directly alienated to the former owner instead of through competitive tender. As such, DP was pegged at 100% of the enhancement of land value as determined by the Chief Valuer.

It was market knowledge that this same policy was applied to the redevelopment of Market Street Car Park by Capita Land. In particular, a news release in January 2008 had stated that Capita Land had to pay 100% of the enhancement in land value as assessed by the Chief Valuer in a spot valuation.

The applicant thereafter applied for judicial review, seeking a quashing order against the assessed DP and a mandatory order to direct the SLA to assess the DP in accordance with the DC Table. The Attorney-General, a non-party to the action, also made submissions. The parties had agreed to consolidate the application for leave with the substantive application.

Held, dismissing the application:

(1) An applicant seeking judicial review had to meet three conditions for leave to be granted: (a) the subject matter had to be susceptible to judicial review; (b) the applicant had sufficient interest (i.e.,locus standi) in the matter; (c) the material before the court disclosed an arguable or prima facie case of reasonable suspicion in favour of granting the remedies sought by the applicant. As the parties had agreed to consolidate the application for leave with the substantive application, the applicant's case would be decided on its merits: at [26] and [27] .

(2) The application for leave was not out of time. Time only started to run from 20 February 2013 and not 29 November 2011. The SLA's decision was a multiple-step decision process. As a practical matter, the nub of the applicant's complaint was not just the method that was used to compute the DP but also the outcome of that method. The 29 November 2011 letter did not specify the amount of money that was payable and the applicant was not in a position to determine if an application for judicial review ought to be made. Even if time started to run from 29 November 2011, the delay...

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