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Teochew clan spat: Court upholds open trial decision

Teochew clan spat: Court upholds open trial decision

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 25 Mar 2020
Author: Tee Zhuo

Legal dispute between two rival groups centres on occupancy of Teochew Building. 

The High Court on Monday affirmed that a high-profile legal tussle between two rival Teochew clan groups over the historic Teochew Building should go to trial in open court.

In an e-mail to the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan, seen by The Straits Times yesterday, its lawyers said Senior Judge Andrew Ang had ruled in favour of the Huay Kuan and decided not to grant the Ngee Ann Kongsi leave to appeal against his earlier decision, after reviewing arguments from both sides.

WongPartnership, lawyers for the Huay Kuan in the dispute, told ST that this means the judge has maintained his earlier decision that there should be a trial in open court.

The Kongsi has until next Wednesday to submit an application to appeal against Senior Judge Ang's decision to the Court of Appeal, supported by an affidavit.

The Huay Kuan has seven days after that to oppose it.

A date for the trial has yet to be set.

In a ruling in October last year, Senior Judge Ang allowed the Huay Kuan's application to convert the originating summons by the Kongsi into a writ action.

This means the case is heard in an open court involving a wider scope, including witness evidence, if available.

At the centre of the spat is the redevelopment and occupancy of a six-storey building in Tank Road, which both organisations had occupied together for 55 years.

In December 2018, the Kongsi served an originating summons for the Huay Kuan to vacate the building in the River Valley area, so that it can be redeveloped.

The Huay Kuan refused to budge, stating that the redevelopment was a unilateral move.

Senior Judge Ang, who noted that the Huay Kuan had occupied the building since 1963, held it likely that a substantial dispute of fact will arise in relation to legal claims involved in the rights to use the property.

He added that while discovery of documents - seeking relevant evidence from documents - is also available in an originating summons, the discovery obligations on both parties are wider in a writ action, which would enable "a fairer resolution of the dispute".

The Kongsi feared that an open court trial would "needlessly protract" the proceedings.

But Senior Judge Ang said that this could be addressed by applying for summary judgment or by striking out pleadings and endorsements under prescribed court rules.

Heavyweights are fighting the dispute for both sides.

Senior Counsel Davinder Singh and lawyer Jaikanth Shankar from Davinder Singh Chambers are leading a team of lawyers for the Kongsi, while WongPartnership lawyers led by Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng and lawyer Josephine Choo are defending the Huay Kuan.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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