KUALA LUMPUR — It is incredulous for the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) to compulsorily acquire 26 acres of land just to build a so-called mega mosque, the Court of Appeal said in the written judgment of its January 17 landmark court decision.

The grounds of the judgment, which was made available yesterday evening had declared Jais’ acquisition of United Allied Empire Sdn Bhd’s (UAE) land as unlawful, invalid, and done in bad faith — and that the land would have to be returned to the private firm.

“It would be incredulous and bordering on the perverse, to compulsorily acquire the entire land area belonging to the Appellant of about 26 acres for the purpose of building a mosque.

“Even if such exercise would include erecting buildings normally associated with a mosque,” read the judgment prepared by Court of Appeal Judge Justice Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim.

The Court of Appeal granted a total of RM100,000 in costs to UAE for proceedings there and in the High Court, and half of it is to be paid by four respondents in the case — the Selangor Land and Mines Department director, the Kuala Selangor land administrator, Jais and the Selangor government.

The other half of the costs is to be paid by two others which UAE had sued, namely the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and Selangor Zakat Board.

The judgment pointed out that the respondents had been “evasive” when confronted by UAE as to the real reason of the acquisition, and admitted in their affidavits that the purpose of acquisition as stated on the signboard erected on the site differed from what was stated in the official Government Gazette.

Jais and the other respondents had also admitted that the purpose declared in the Government Gazette had failed to mention that the purported 26-acre mosque will also include “a cemetery and other buildings.”

The Court of Appeal said that Jais and the other respondents’ affidavits were ”a curious mix of bare denials, contradictions of themselves and each other, blaming each other or just plain outright failure and/or refusal to answer the points raised”.

“What the respondents had affirmed in their affidavits clearly depicted a wider and expansive purpose than what was declared in the Government Gazette,” the judgment added.

UAE, an ethnic Chinese-owned company, had filed for a judicial review in April 2013 as a last resort to revoke the compulsory acquisition of its land that was roughly the size of 20 international football fields.

In the lawsuit, UAE had accused the Selangor authorities of purported racial oppression and violation of its constitutional rights, claiming that the religious bodies had abused their powers to avoid paying fair compensation for the land, and had shored up their land bank for future development.

In a typical compulsory acquisition process, property owners can expect to be paid lower than the market value, or lower than the sum they may have received if they had sold the property.

According to UAE, compulsory acquisition of private land was only allowed under Article 13 of the Federal Constitution if it benefited the public and if property owners received adequate compensation.

Jais and the other respondents have since appealed the landmark court decision, and have filed for leave to appeal with the Federal Court.