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J.Y. Interpretation No.743-Whether Land Expropriated for the MRT System May Subsequently Be Used for an MRT Joint Development Project

Yi-Jiun Su/Kate Lee


Regarding the controversial case of the Mei-Ho City joint development project, in which the Taipei City Government first expropriated private land and then used the land for a joint development in the same project to cooperate with construction companies to build buildings, and thereafter sold the buildings to third parties, the Constitutional Court ("Court") ruled, in Interpretation No.743 on December 30, 2016, that the land expropriated by the government according to Article 6 of the Mass Rapid Transit Act ("MRT Act") should not be used for an MRT joint development project. Moreover, the Court declared that the government should not transfer the land expropriated according to Article 6 of the MRT Act to a third party unless it is explicitly provided by law.
 
Interpretation No.743 can be summarized as follows:
 
1.    The MRT joint development project does not meet the requirement set forth in Article 7 of the MRT Act under which the competent authority may expropriate the land "if an agreement to purchase the land cannot be reached":
 
At the time of the expropriation of the land used in the joint development project conducted by the Taipei City Government for the construction of Xindian Line of the Taipei MRT ("Project"), the detailed urban planning and joint development plan had not as yet been implemented; therefore, the contents of the Project could not have been certain/decided upon yet. Therefore, without the foundation on which an agreement can be reached, the competent authority's expropriation of the land for the Project does not meet the requirement of Article 7 of the MRT Act under which the competent authority may expropriate the land "if an agreement to purchase the land cannot be reached."
 
2.    The expropriation conducted by the competent authority according to Article 6 of the MRT Act is based on the specific purpose of constructing the MRT systems; the expropriation of such land based on the needs of the Project cannot be used in a joint development as provided in Article 7 of the MRT Act:
 
The legislative intent of Article 6 and Paragraph 1, Article 7 of the MRT Act are totally different. Article 6 requires the competent authority to expropriate the land used for the MRT according to applicable laws, for the specific purpose of constructing MRT systems, without considering commercial benefits. On the other hand, the purpose of Article 7 is to use the land resource efficiently, to facilitate regional development and raise funds for the MRT construction, which is involved with sharing commercial benefits and bearing risks. Although the competent authority becomes the owner of certain pieces of land through expropriation in accordance with Article 6 of the MRT Act, its position is somewhat different than that of a private owner of the land that can freely use, profit from and dispose of the land, and enforce other related rights. Since, based on the specific public purpose of the MRT construction, the competent authority expropriates the land according to Article 6 of the MRT Act, such land cannot be used in the same MRT joint development according to Article 7 of the MRT Act for economic purposes, or even transferred to a private party.
 
3.    If the land used in a joint development project is acquired through appropriation according to Article 6 of the MRT Act, for the purpose of the MRT system, the competent authority should not transfer such land to a private party unless the law explicitly provides otherwise:
 
If the competent authority expropriates people's property for public purposes or for the benefit of the public, but subsequently transfers such property to a third party, the power of expropriation might be easily misused and would give rise to people's concern that the government intends to grant improper benefits to certain third parties. Therefore, even if due to changes of circumstances, the competent authority includes the land expropriated according to Article 6 of the MRT Act to a joint development project according to the applicable laws at that time, unless the law explicitly stipulates otherwise, it should not transfer such land to a third party, so as to be consistent with the intention of the Constitution to protect the property rights of the people.
 
According to J.Y. Interpretation No.188, a unified interpretation made by the Constitutional Court in respect of a statute or regulation lays down a ground rule for government agencies in their application of law. If an irrevocable final judgment has been made and the view expressed by the court on the application of any law or regulation is held by the Constitutional Court to be inconsistent with the intention of such law or regulation, such judgment constitutes an apparent error in application of law or a violation of law, and thus the losing party under such judgment must be allowed to seek legal remedies by invoking such Interpretation as a ground to support his/her/its petition for a re-trial or an extraordinary appeal. As Interpretation No.743 was filed by the Control Yuan for a unified interpretation of Articles 6 and 7 of the MRT Act, the original landowners of the Project, whose land has been wrongfully expropriated, may evaluate their entitlement to petition for a re-trial or an extraordinary appeal based on this Interpretation No.743.
 

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