The Supreme Administrative Court rendered the 106-Pan-60 Decision of February 9, 2017 (hereinafter, the “Decision”), holding that to ascertain if a party has farming ability or is able to retain others to conduct farming operation, it is necessary for the court to notify such party to explain before the court, and that if the party fails to appear in court, the court can also investigate evidence ex officio.
According to the facts underlying this Decision, Plaintiff A (a lessee of a land subject to the 37.5% arable rent reduction) filed a complaint to assert that the Intervenor (a lessor of a land subject to the 37.5% arable rent reduction) had reached the age of 88 with poor health condition, could not take care of himself in his daily lives and needed a caregiver. Since he could not conducted the farming operation by himself and did not till his land by leveraging any agricultural technology or through entrepreneurial operation, he did not have farming capability. The Toucheng Township Office of Ilan County, the Defendant in this case, had determined that the Intervenor was able to farm solely based on his unilateral affidavit on his farming operation and failed to mediate the disputes concerning the renewal of the lease at issue before rendering the original disposition which allowed the Intervenor to take back the land at issue to conduct his own farming operation. Therefore, such disposition was certainly unlawful, and an administrative action was brought to set aside the decision on administrative appeal and the original disposition and to compel another disposition that allowed A to continue his lease of the land.
According to the Decision, A asserted that the Intervenor could not take care of himself in his daily lives and was not able to indicate his intent to hire another individual to till the land on his behalf. Although the original decision did not accept A’s assertion on the ground that A had failed to produce evidence to substantiate the assertion, still such facts and evidence concerning if the Intervenor was able to take care of himself in his daily lives were most available from the Intervenor, and the original trial court could have investigated evidence ex officio. If such evidence and substantiation were solely requested of A, evidentiary rules would be violated for such unfair requirement. To ascertain if the Intervenor was able to farm or to retain another person to conduct farming operation on his behalf, it would be necessary for the original trial court to notify the Intervenor to appear in court again to provide an explanation. If the Intervenor could not appear in court, it would be necessary to request the Intervenor to provide explanation concerning the inability to appear in court, any record showing the Intervenor had sought treatment, and the severity of the illness. If the Intervenor refused to explain, the court could also investigate evidence ex officio. Failing to conduct further investigation to ascertain facts and evidence, the original trial court was rash when it jumped to the conclusion that the Intervenor’s son could till the land on his behalf and that the Intervenor was not subject to the circumstance where he could not hire another person to till the land on his behalf. Since the original decision was flawed for insufficiency of grounds, the original decision was reversed and remanded.