To ensure that people whose rights have been violated owing to urban planning can file a lawsuit for relief timely, and that the competent authorities comply with the laws in their preparation, approval and publication of urban plans, by Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 742 the Judicial Yuan proposed an amendment to the Administrative Litigation Act to add a new chapter called "Issues Relating to the Review of Urban Plans" (the "New Chapter"). The New Chapter cleared the legislative floor on December 13, 2019, was promulgated by the president on January 15, 2020, and will take effect on July 1, 2020. A summary of the amendment is as follows:
I. Lawsuits arising from issues relating to the review of urban plans ("Urban Planning Lawsuits") are "objective litigation" and are to protect human rights. Such lawsuits are to resolve disputes over urban plans that have been published, and the disputes do not have to concern an implemented urban plan. In the event of damage caused directly by an urban plan in violation of the law, damage caused by being subject to an urban plan, or damage that may occur in the foreseeable future with no revision to the plan expected, an Urban Planning Lawsuit may be filed against the administrative authority that approved the urban plan. Owing to the nature of objective litigation, Urban Planning Lawsuits may not be joined with lawsuits that the New Chapter does not apply to.
II. The statute of limitations for filing Urban Planning Lawsuits is one year from the publication of the urban plan in question; where the violation that gives rise to the action occurs after the publication of the urban plan, the time limitation should start to run upon the occurrence of such violation.
III. The high administrative court for the "location subject to the urban plan in question" shall have exclusive jurisdiction over the Urban Planning Lawsuits in the first-instance proceedings. The Administrative Appeal Act and the provisions pertaining to remedies of unlawful administrative actions under the Administrative Litigation Act do not apply to lawsuits over urban plans published after the enactment of the New Chapter. As an opportunity to conduct a self-review regarding compliance of the urban plan, the defendant is required to review the legality of the urban plan within two months of the service of the complaint. If the defendant finds the urban plan unlawful, it should make corrections or make necessary changes to the plan to make it legally compliant.
IV. There are requirements specific to Urban Planning Lawsuits for third-party participation. If the administrative court finds that the rights or legal interests of a third party will be directly prejudiced if the urban plan is declared void, invalid or unlawful, the administrative court may ex officio order the third party to participate in the proceedings and/or assist either party to the suit in the proceedings. The third party may also file a petition with the court to participate in the proceedings. In addition, the administrative court shall, in accordance with its ex officio power and authority, request the agencies that proposed and published the urban plan to submit their statements in court, and may also request the administrative authorities affected by the urban plan to comment in court.
V. Where an urban plan that is the subject of a pending Urban Planning Lawsuit is also the subject in a petition for constitutional interpretation, to avoid any divergence between the court decision and the constitutional interpretation while still respecting the grand justices' power to interpret the Constitution, the administrative court may decide whether to stay the proceedings.
VI. Upon conclusion of the review proceedings:
(I) If the court finds that the plaintiff's claims of action are without merits and finds no violation of the urban plan, the court should render a judgment to dismiss the plaintiff's action. A judgment dismissing the plaintiff's complaint should also be entered if the urban plan violated only the procedural requirements and such violation may be rectified and has been lawfully rectified before the conclusion of the first-instance oral debate. Such judgment dismissing the plaintiff's suit is binding only between the parties to the suit; a third party may still file an Urban Planning Lawsuit over the same urban plan.
(II) If the administrative court finds that an urban plan is unlawful, the court should render a judgment declaring the urban plan invalid. Urban Planning Lawsuits are objective litigation, and the scope of review and decision of the administrative court is not limited to the claims of the plaintiff. If a part of the urban plan not objected to by the plaintiff is closely connected with the part objected to by the plaintiff, the administrative court may declare the former part invalid if such part is found to be in violation of the law. If a violation occurs after the publication of urban plan, such urban plan should be declared invalid from the time the violation transpired. If for reasons such as the protection of the rights and interests of a third party, declaration of invalidity or unlawfulness may not be appropriate, a declaration of violation may be issued instead.
VII. A final judgment declaring an urban plan void, invalid or unlawful is also binding on third parties. Nevertheless, the rights and interests of the parties should still be protected (for instance, extraordinary appeals should be allowed where a final criminal judgment rendered based on the urban plan is unlawful), and the laws and order should still be maintained. This amendment also provides guidance on issues over the validity and enforcement of the final judgments or administrative decisions relating to urban plans that have been implemented (where the urban plan has been implemented, the validity of the relevant judgments or decisions will not be affected).
VIII. An administrative court's judgment in an Urban Planning Lawsuit might not be able to prevent certain damage in time. Consequently, for the interests and benefits of all parties involved, the implementation of an urban plan may be temporarily suspended or other necessary measures may be taken to prevent material harm or imminent danger. Under this amendment, petitions may be filed to stay the implementation of an urban plan or to allow the necessary measures.
The New Chapter to the Administrative Litigation Act under this amendment provides a comprehensive mechanism for the people to seek remedies for damage arising from urban plans, and offer better protection to the people's property rights and litigation rights. The validity of urban plans will face major challenges due to Urban Planning Lawsuits. How the courts handle Urban Planning Lawsuits and how administrative agencies will respond to such new law in preparing their urban plans remain to be seen.