Anonymous tip-offs: HDB need not reveal identity

Anonymous tip-offs: HDB need not reveal identity

The Housing Board is not required to disclose the identity of anonymous callers who provide tip-offs - or the contents of private investigation reports used against an errant flat owner, the High Court has ruled.

Explaining why he dismissed the bid of a flat owner accused of unauthorised sub-letting to quash the HDB's move to compulsorily acquire his flat, Justice Tay Yong Kwang wrote last week: "The rules of natural justice do not require the disclosure of the source of the anonymous tip-off.

"Imposing an extensive duty of disclosure will only discourage members of the public from stepping forward with information leading to the detection of wrongdoing."

Justice Tay ruled that the application for a judicial review of the HDB's move by co-owners Per Ah Seng and his wife was filed too late, and would have failed on the merits of the case - even if the review had been allowed.

Mr Per, 47, claimed the HDB did not disclose enough details about its probe before the seizure for him to respond adequately.

Acting on a tip-off in 2009, HDB found the entire four-room flat in Bukit Batok Central had been rented out without approval.

Allen & Gledhill lawyer Dinesh Singh Dhillon, representing the HDB, denied a breach of natural justice to support a judicial review, pointing out that Mr Per had been accorded the due appeal process to the HDB and the Minister for National Development before the flat was acquired.

Mr Per's lawyer Kirpal Singh argued that HDB had failed to disclose the evidence it had relied on in arriving at its decision.

This included the identity of the person behind the anonymous tip-off and the private investigation report.

Justice Tay noted that revealing the report's contents may lead to the HDB's internal workings being made known to the public.

Mr Khoo Boo Jin from the Attorney- General's Chambers pointed out that it was not in the public interest for HDB's investigative methods to be released into the public domain as it may allow errant owners to take advantage of the system in future.

Justice Tay held that on the facts of the case, HDB's refusal to disclose the report was justified as Mr Per was clearly told of the case he had to answer and the allegations against him and his wife.

Mr Per also had clear knowledge of HDB's inspection of the property and statements provided by a key tenant. The judge ordered Mr Per to pay $37,000 in legal costs.

The judicial review application is the first to be heard involving a flat acquired compulsorily. Mr Per plans to appeal.

This article was first published on January 28, 2015.
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