On Friday 5th July 2013, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Constitution of Singapore “Does not give the Prime Minister an unfettered discretion in the calling of an election to fill a casual vacancy of an elected MP. He must do so within a reasonable time”. In so doing, the Court has overturned an earlier High Court position that the Prime Minister had the authority to decide when and if a by-election should be held in the event of a Parliamentary vacancy.
Hougang resident Madam Vellama D/O Muthu brought this issue to the Court on 2 March 2012 with the contention that the right to Parliamentary representation is fundamental to citizens of a representative democracy. Today Justices Chao Hick Tin, Andrew Phang Boon Leong and V K Rajah confirmed this position, ruling that, “If a vacancy is left unfilled for an unnecessarily prolonged period that would give rise to a serious risk of disenfranchising the residents of that constituency.”
Mr M Ravi, Mdm Vellama’s lawyer, adds, “This may be the first time the Singapore Courts have acted to interpret the Constitution in a way that has circumscribed the Prime Minister’s executive authority. It is a great day for democracy in Singapore. A year ago, who would have imagined that one Hougang citizen could take on such a challenge, in the interest of all citizens, and that it would result in the highest court affirming that Singaporeans do have a right to representation in Parliament.”
Read the Judgement below.