Friday September 7, 2012
Court ‘no’ in Bukit Koman case
PUTRAJAYA: Kampung Bukit Koman villagers in Raub have lost their legal battle to challenge the Department of Environment director-general’s approval of a preliminary Environ-mental Impact Assessment report by a gold mining firm.
In unanimously dismissing the appeal by the villagers, a five-member Federal Court panel ruled that they had delayed in filing their leave for judicial review application to challenge the decision.
Led by Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif, the panel said they also did not give good reasons to be granted an extension of time.
The panel, comprising Federal Court judges Tan Sri Abdull Hamid Embong, Datuk Ahmad Maarop, Datuk Hasan Lah and Datin Paduka Zaleha Zahari, ordered the villagers to pay RM15,000 in legal costs as well.
Under the Rules of the High Court, an application for leave for judicial review shall be made promptly and, in any event, within 40 days from the date when the grounds of the application first arose or when the decision was first communicated to the applicant.
The court also replied in the negative on the question whether a court, in determining an application for extension of time, was required to consider the merits of the applicants’ complaint.
Justice Raus said the decision in two Federal Court cases – Mersing Omnibus Co Sdn Bhd vs Minister of Labour and Manpower and Ravindran vs Malaysian Examination Council – which held that the merits would not be dealt with when seeking for an extension, was “good law”.
Lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, who represented the villagers, had contended that the decision in those two cases ought to be reversed.
Later, describing the court’s decision as “conservative”, Malik said the villagers would now have to consider other options.
Raub Australian Gold Mining Sdn Bhd’s counsel Tan Sri Cecil Abraham said that following the verdict, it could continue with the mining, adding that the judicial review had ended.
In a letter dated Feb 21, 2008, the director-general had declined to give in to the residents’ request to review the report and require the company to provide a detailed one.
On March 21, 2008, four residents – Wong Kin Hoong, Chong Sow Pin, Hue Fui How and another person who died early this year – filed leave to initiate a judicial review application, naming the director-general and the company.
The villagers, who claimed to have suffered health problems from the use of cyanide in a gold mine, wanted the director-general to require the company to furnish a detailed EIA report.
They claimed that the preliminary report did not give details on where and how the treatment of gold mining waste should be disposed of and on the discharge of effluents. —Bernama