Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) through the Attorney's General Chambers (AGC) has appealed against the High Court's ruling that the government is not entitled to make an application under Section 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) and it is not "just and equitable" for MINDEF to use Section 15 on a statement made by a local inventor against MINDEF.
The High Court had earlier ruled on 9 December 2015 that the Government cannot use the POHA to make The Online Citizen (TOC) take down statements on its site made by Dr Ting Choon Meng, co-founder of medical device firm MobileStats Technologies against the MINDEF.
Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon (“Justice See”) overturned an earlier decision by a district court that had ruled in favour of the Government and ordered that the statements could be published only if they came with a clarification note that they have been declared false by the courts.
On Wednesday this week, Justice See heard AGC’s application for permission to appeal Justice See’s decision to the Court of Appeal.
In the hearing of MINDEF's appeal, Justice See agreed with the legal team representing TOC, that the issue as to whether Dr Ting made a false statement in alleging that MINDEF knowingly infringed his patent was not an appropriate issue for which permission to appeal should be given.
However, Justice See was of the view that the issue as to whether he exercised his discretion correctly in ruling that it would not be “just and equitable” for MINDEF to obtain an order under Section 15 of the Protection From Harassment Act does involve a question of law of public interest meriting the grant of permission to appeal.
This is because Justice See’s ruling that it would not be “just and equitable” for MINDEF to obtain the order is closely tied to his ruling that the Government does not have the right to make an application under Section 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act – and there is no dispute that the latter issue does involve a question of law of public interest.
In the premises, Justice See granted permission to appeal by MINDEF in respect of the following 2 issues:
- Whether the Government is entitled to make an application under Section 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act; and
- If so, whether it would be “just and equitable” for the Government to obtain a Section 15 order in respect of Dr Ting’s statement that MINDEF deliberately delayed the patent infringement proceedings.
TOC will follow up with more updates on the appeal when more information is available.
TOC would like to thank the efforts of the legal team from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP in defending of the website against the claims of harassment by MINDEF, especially since the legal firm is fighting the case on a pro-bono basis.
If not for their assistance, TOC would have given in to the legal suit filed by AGC/MINDEF as the site does not have the same financial backing as the government to fight the case.