SINGAPORE, October 8, 2012– At the cost hearing today, which was heard by Justice Pillai in chambers, the Attorney General represented by David Cheong, senior counsel, pressed for legal costs to be ordered against Vellama d/o Marie Muthu.
Madam Vellama, represented by Mr M. Ravi, vigorously defended that no order should be made against the applicant on the following grounds:
I. Madam Vellama had won two out of the four applications filed when her Judicial Review application at the leave stage was a success.
II. She also succeeded in getting the Attorney General’s striking out application dismissed when the Attorney General had taken out a strike application against Justice Pillai’s decision to allow Vellama to proceed with the open court hearing.
III. It was further submitted by Mr M. Ravi that Madame Vellama should be granted a Protective Cost Order to prevent a lay-litigant from being stifled by punitive costs in cases where Constitutional Rights are at stake.
This notion of a Protective Cost Order has found its passage in South Africa; however, it is less likely to surface in countries such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand or Australia. This is because these countries not only have institutional safeguards in place but also have a culture of individual civic activism wherein the cost of a public interest litigation, such as Madame Vellema’s case, that effects the realization of rights by all citizens, are sponsored by donations from citizen philanthropists.
Justice Pillai directed both parties to submit their findings on whether there are exceptions to the general rule that the losing party pays the winning party in such cases. The justice further instructed both counsels to research Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom judicial precedents to learn if there are common law principals developed towards such an exception.
The matter is now fixed for further hearing on Tuesday, 16 October 2012, at 10:00am.
M/s L F Violet Netto