The Court of Appeal has passed its landmark judgement in the case between Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Dr Ting Choon Meng/The Online Citizen, stating that the Singapore Government is not deemed as a “person” under the section 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act.
The three-judge CA has determined that the government cannot use the provision in the act as a person in a split judgment with Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang and Chao Hick Tin in majority with Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon dissenting.
This means it is final to say that the government is not entitled to use POHA to seek protection from the “harassment” from Dr Ting and The Online Citizen (TOC) and the two need not comply with the demands set by the court in the previous rulings.
MINDEF through the Attorney’s General Chambers (AGC) had earlier 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.
Earlier on 15 January 2015, TOC reported on Dr Ting’s recount of the sequence of events which transpired between his company, MobileStats Pte Ltd and MINDEF. Dr Ting alleged that MINDEF had infringed his patent for “Mobile First Aid Post” and had the patent revoked through a ‘war of attrition’ in the courts.
In response, MINDEF disputed Dr Ting’s claims with its own statement of facts published on cyberpioneer’s facebook fanpage and sent a letter of demand to Dr Ting and TOC on 28 January via the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) threatening to use the POHA.
Dr Ting and TOC declined to accede to the AGC’s demands set out by the letter, which then led to MINDEF to proceed with legal actions against Dr Ting and TOC on 11 February via the use of POHA to seek protection of harassment from the two.
The move by the government to utilise the POHA to censor news about itself is seen as an unexpected move as the act was promoted as a legislation to protect the weak and vulnerable by the Ministry of Law, K Shanmugam in Parliament.
Dr Ting’s patent remains revoked till date.
(Above: Dr Ting’s interview with TOC that spurred the actions of MINDEF)
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.