Under the existing law, trials of civil and administrative cases are conducted in separate courts: that is, the administrative courts and the courts of general jurisdiction. Unless otherwise stipulated by law, disputes arising from relations governed by private law shall be determined by courts of general jurisdiction; disputes arising from relations governed by public law shall be adjudicated by administrative courts (see J. Y. Interpretation No. 448 and No. 466). In cases involving civilians applying for contracts with the Authorities based on administrative regulations, the said Authorities may grant rejection on grounds of public interests, and the injured party may resort to administrative litigation for relief (see J. Y. Interpretation No. 540).
To continue on the work of restoration mandated in Agriculture Order No. 35876 issued by the Secretary of the former Taiwan Province on 27 May 1969 (also known as the “Taiwan Provincial Plan for the Restoration of Over-cultivated State-owned Woodland”), the Council of Agriculture under the Executive Yuan enacted the Operational Guidelines for the Restoration of Over-cultivated, State-owned Woodland (hereafter “the Guidelines at issue”) along with an Enforcement Plan on 23 April 2008 in an attempt to handle persons who engage in illegal cultivation or reclamation, and further launched forestry restoration to improve forestland security and boost public welfare. To this end, District Offices of the Council of Agriculture under the Executive Yuan’s Forestry Bureau (hereafter “Forestry District Offices”) may only contract with civilian applicants after the said applicants have actually applied for a lease in accordance with the Guidelines at issue as well as other related ordinances.
The main purpose of such restoration task lies in resolving problems arisen from over-cultivation on state-owned woodland as well as preserving long-term public interests such as homeland security (see Article 5 of the Forest Law). Hence, the Forestry District office has the authority to reject any leasing contract proposed by civilian applicant on grounds of threats to maintain sustainable forestry management or to matters of major public interest such as homeland security during its investigation process or having confirmed the compliance of the said civilian occupier. As a result, the threshold lies in whether the decision made by the Forestry District Office is based on the exercise of public authority. In other words, if public policy plays a part in the determination by the Forestry District Office when weighing up whether or not to lease state-owned woodland to civilian applicants, the subsequent decision certainly pertains to public law. As a consequence, an injured party must resort to administrative litigation for relief, and all related disputes of this kind shall be adjudicated by administrative courts.
Translated by Marie C.Y. Li