Is Tenaga Nasional Berhad (“TNB”) obligated to supply electricity to occupiers of land requesting for the supply, although the occupiers are not entitled to occupy the premises/land on which they have asked for the supply of electricity?
TENAGA NASIONAL BERHAD V BUKIT LENANG DEVELOPMENT SDN BHD  1 LNS 1618
- Bukit Lenang Development Sdn Bhd (“BLDSB”) had purchased plots of land for an intended development project (“Subject Land”).
- There were squatters on the Subject Land which BLDSB had sought to evict.
- The squatters were supplied electricity by TNB and electricity poles were erected by TNB for the purpose of supplying electricity to the squatters.
- TNB supplied the electricity pursuant to S 24(1) of the Electricity Supply Act 1990 (“ESA”) which essentially states “…TNB shall upon being required to do so by the owner or occupier of any premises give supply of electricity to those premises and so far as necessary provide supply lines……”
- BLDSB had issued letters demanding TNB to cease supply of electricity to the squatters and to remove all structures erected on the Subject Land.
- TNB did not comply with the said demands on the basis that pursuant to S 24(1) of the ESA, TNB is obligated to supply electricity to any occupier who requests.
- BLDSB then filed its claim against TNB for trespass.
- BLDSB had filed a separate claim against the occupiers stating that the occupiers were squatters. BLDSB obtained judgment stating that the occupiers were squatters.
- The High Court found in favour of BLDSB and concluded that TNB was liable for trespass from the date it was informed of the judgment that the occupiers were indeed squatters.
- TNB appealed to the Court of Appeal.
- The Court of Appeal dismissed TNB’s appeal and affirmed the judgment of the High Court.
- TNB appealed to the Federal Court on the basis that it is absolved from liability in trespass in view of its strict and mandatory obligations to supply and continue supplying electricity to occupiers pursuant to the ESA.
FEDERAL COURT DECISION – APPEAL DISMISSED!
The Federal Court dismissed the appeal on the following rationales:
- The Federal Court held that S 24(1) of the ESA does not give the right to TNB to supply electricity to squatters without the consent of the owner of the property/land.
- If the ESA was to be construed so as to convey on TNB a right to enter the BLDSB’s land without its consent, this would derogate from the spirit and purpose of Article 13 of the Federal Constitution which recognises an individual’s property rights as a fundamental right under the Federal Constitution.
- Furthermore, any duty or obligation imposed by statute has to be performed lawfully. It is, therefore, clear that the law requires public bodies or entities carrying out public functions such as TNB, to carry out those acts in a lawful manner. It is no defence to a claim in tort to say that the act was carried out in the public interest.