Vivekananda Ashram owner fails to strike out National Heritage Dept’s decision

The Vivekananda Ashram, built in 1904, remains a cornerstone of Brickfields’ rich past. — Picture by Haresh Deol
The Vivekananda Ashram, built in 1904, remains a cornerstone of Brickfields’ rich past. — Picture by Haresh Deol

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 12 — Vivekananda Ashram Kuala Lumpur today failed in its bid to strike out the decision of the National Heritage Department to gazette the 110-year-old Vivekananda Ashram building and its surrounding land in Brickfields here as a heritage site.

High Court Judge Datuk Hanipah Farikullah ruled against Vivekananda Ashram Kuala Lumpur after allowing a preliminary objection by the National Heritage Department to prevent the company from obtaining a judicial review to challenge the decision.

Hanipah made the decision in her chambers in the presence of counsel Datuk David Gurupatham, representing the company as applicant.

Also present during the proceeding was Senior Federal Counsel Mazlifah Ayob who appeared for the National Heritage Department, Heritage Commissioner Dr Zainah Ibrahim, Ministry of Tourism and Culture as well as the Tourism and Culture Minister, as the respondents.

Mazlifah, when met by reporters, said the court also turned down the application of Vivekananda Ashram to obtain leave for a judicial review on the grounds the application was premature and academic.

She said the court also did not make any order on costs.

Mazlifah said the application was premature as Vivekananda Ashram’ s application was filed before its appeal to the Tourism and Culture Minister was exhausted.

“The applicant had appealed to the Tourism Minister via a letter dated  Oct 7, 2015. However, before the Minister could decide on the appeal, this application was filed on Oct 13, 2015,” she said, adding that the Minister had refused their appeal and maintained the designation of the land as a heritage site.

On Oct 13 last year, Vivekananda Ashram which is the owner of the property concerned, filed an application for a certiorari order to cancel the department’s decision and notice dated July 15, 2015 to gazette the Vivekananda Ashram building grounds with an area of 43,558 sq ft as a heritage site under the National Heritage Act 2005.

The company also applied for a declaration that the areas surrounding the building cannot be defined as natural heritage or national heritage pursuant to the National Heritage Act 2005 and only the Vivekananda Ashram building should be gazetted as heritage site.

The applicant also sought the court to issue a mandamus order so that the National Heritage Department considered a proposal to gazette only the Vivekananda Ashram building as heritage site and allowed its surrounding property to be developed.

The company also applied for certiorari order to cancel the interim protection order of the department or alternatively the department could pay compensation to the company as it had deprived the company use of its land.

Apart from that, the company also applied for an interim injunction to prevent the department from taking any action against the company and building site until the case was settled.

They sought compensation amounting to RM60,093,920 from the National Heritage Department as financial compensation as the company had been denied its fundamental right for the use of the property. — Bernama

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