Application filed to question if prosecution of Daniel De Costa is contravention of Article 12 of the Constitution

Photo: Terry Xu

An application has just been filed with the State Court on Wednesday (11 Dec) by lawyer, M Ravi on behalf of his client, Daniel De Costa to have De Costa’s criminal defamation case to be stated in the High Court to raise the question as to whether the prosecution of De Costa is a contravention of the equality provision of Article 12 of the Constitution.

De Costa was earlier charged on 13 Dec 2018 in the State Court for the following charge:

‘… that you on 4th September 2018, at about 7:24pm, at an Internet café located in Chinatown, Singapore had defamed members of the Cabinet of Singapore by making an imputation concerning members of the Cabinet of Singapore by words intended to be read, to wit, by sending an email titled ‘PAP MP apologises to SP’ from [email protected] to [email protected] which you had written and which stated that there was ‘corruption at the highest echelons’ intending that the contents of the said email would be published on the website, knowing that such imputation would harm the reputation of members of the Cabinet of Singapore […]”

Published on 4 Sep 2018, the article submitted by De Costa alleged that “we have seen multiple policy and foreign screw-ups, tampering of the Constitution, corruption at the highest echelons and apparent lack of respect from foreign powers ever since the demise of founding father Lee Kuan Yew”.

Mr Ravi in his application, pointed out that other publications, such as the Joint Statement of Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang – siblings of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – made similar or worse imputations that were directed squarely at the Prime Minister, a member of the Cabinet.

The application highlights a segment of the Joint Statement by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang where they wrote, “Lee Hsien Loong misused his powers as Prime Minister, and that he hijacked the organs of state to pursue his own personal desires” against De Costa’s offending words, “corruption at the highest echelons”.

It is said that if the statements of the two siblings are not prosecuted, De Costa should similarly not be prosecuted, a fortiori when the statements of the Lee siblings were more direct, and the allegations more severe.

Mr Ravi further pointed to the Court of Appeal decision of Ramalingam Ravinthran(2012) that on an unbiased consideration the same prosecutorial decision should be applied to all parties engaged in the same criminal conduct.

“The prosecution of only Mr. De Costa and Mr Xu Yuanchen. and not the Lee siblings is an infringement upon the right to equality before the law enshrined in Article 12(1). Article 12(1) of the Republic of Singapore Constitution (1999 Reprint) states that “all persons are equal before the law”. – Text of application filed by M Ravi

Under Section 500 of the Penal Code, those found guilty of criminal defamation may be subject to maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment or a fine or both.

If the application is successful, the charge against De Costa will be quashed.

Article 12(1) of the Republic of Singapore Constitution states:

Equal protection
12.—  (1) All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.
(2) Except as expressly authorised by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.

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