Lawyers’ of Mr Li Shengwu has announced that they are challenging the court order which enable the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to serve papers on their client in the United States.
It was earlier reported that the AGC had earlier served papers for contempt of court against Mr Li, who is the eldest son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and nephew of the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
At a pre-trial conference which was held on Monday (4 December) at the High Court and attended by Senior Counsel Francis Ng for the AGC and Mr Li’s counsel, Mr Abraham Vergis of Providence Law, Li’s lawyers from Providence Law Asia informed the High Court that they are applying to set aside the ex parte order – which refers to an order obtained by an application made by a party without reference to the other side.
The law firm noted that the court papers filed by the AGC exceeded 1,300 pages, saying, “We explained we needed time to address the novel grounds which the AGC relied on to justify serving the papers out of jurisdiction.”
The Court directed Li’s lawyers to file their client’s challenge by 22 December and the next pre-trial conference for the case has also been fixed for 4 January 2018 to take further directions in the matter.
The suit is in relation to a private Facebook post that Mr Li made on his Faceboook account, made viewable only by him and his friends.
On the post, he wrote that “the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system” which was referring to the constraints of what the media can report on the matter surrounding the public dispute of his family.
The AGC had earlier demanded Mr Li to apologise, in which he declined as he stressed that his post had been a private one and also contended that the post, when read in context, did not constitute contempt of court.
According to the AGC, the post was an “egregious and baseless attack” on the judiciary, adding that it applied for and was granted the court’s permission to initiate contempt of court proceedings in August.
Veteran lawyer Amolat Singh told The Straits Times, “By applying to set aside the order, what Mr Li’s lawyers are saying is that the service (of the papers) could have been improper or defective.”
Referring to the ex parte – or one-sided – order that the AGC obtained so they could serve papers on Mr Li in the US Mr Amolat said, “When it is ex parte, the court only listens to one party. Now, Mr Li, who is a junior fellow at Harvard University, will be able to put forward his own reasons on why this service may have been defective.”
“If the application goes through, the AGC could have to follow the proper procedure. If they manage to set it aside, technically, the papers would not have been served to Mr Li yet,” he added.
Lawyer Choo Zheng Xi gave a similar example of an appeal which was made in the case of Mr Alex Au, whom he acted for when the socio-political blogger was accused of contempt of court in 2013.
Mr Au was subsequently fined $8,000 for comments that undermined confidence in the judiciary.
Mr Choo said, “The Judge, at first instance, did not give AGC permission to even start proceedings against Mr Au in relation to one statement of alleged contempt of court.”
He then noted that the case against Mr Li cannot proceed if the application to set aside the ex parte order goes through, saying that the AGC could appeal that decision to the Court of Appeal, or re-apply to court in a way that is procedurally correct.