The 110-year-old Vivekananda Ashram building and its surrounding land will remain as a heritage site.

This followed after the High Court here refused to grant leave to the owner of the building to initiate judicial review proceedings to compel the Commissioner of National Heritage Department to gazette only the building as a heritage site.

The owner – Vivekananda Ashram Kuala Lumpur – is seeking to develop the surrounding land of the building and to use the property as it deems fit.

On Friday, High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Justice Hanipah Farikullah dismissed the application for leave for a judicial review with no order as to costs.

Speaking to reporters here Friday after the decision was made in chambers, the applicant’s lead counsel Datuk David Gurupatham said the court had dismissed the application for leave over a preliminary objection on “technicality.”

Senior Federal Counsel Mazlifah Ayob said she raised an objection that the application was filed prematurely before the appeal to the Tourism Minister was completely exhausted, and that it was also academic.

“The applicant had appealed to the Tourism Minister via a letter dated Oct 7, 2015. However, before the Minister could decide the appeal, this application was filed on Oct 13, 2015.

“The Minister then refused their appeal on Oct 29 last year and maintained the designation of the land as a heritage site,” said SFC Mazlifah.

In elaborating, SFC Mazlifah said, “the attack should be made on the decision by the Tourism Minister and not against the Commissioner of the National Heritage Department.”

“The court accepted our arguments on this,” she added.

However, the court allowed an application by lawyer Tommy Thomas for an intervener application by a member of the ashram Datuk A. Yogesvaran.

Co-counsel Sudesh Singh said Yogesvaran also represented “the voice of 19 other members of the ashram” to be the interveners in the judicial review.

David meanwhile said he need to get further instructions from his client whether to appeal against the court order.

The owner had alternatively sought for over RM60mil in damages from the respondents on grounds that it had been denied its fundamental right to use the building for the purposes of development as initially planned.

It applied for a declaration that the area surrounding the Vivekananda Ashram building in Brickfields is not to be defined as a natural or cultural heritage pursuant to the National Heritage Act 2005.

In its application for leave, the company named the Department, its Commissioner Dr Zainah Ibrahim, the Tourism and Culture Ministry and its Minister as respondents.

Among others, the company had asked for a temporary injunctive order to restrain the respondents from taking any action against it and the building’s site until final disposal of the proceedings.

thestar