The High Court on Thursday afternoon (25 June) ruled against the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and has directed that the hearing of the constitutional challenge on the pandemic GE to be heard next Monday (29 June), earlier than the original date of 2 July.
An urgent Pre-Trial Conference was convened for M. Ravi — the counsel of Singapore citizen Daniel De Costa — at 11am today for him to address the court as to why the hearing should be heard before Nomination Day, which will take place on 30 June.
Mr De Costa “is seeking a declaration that the right to vote is a fundamental right guaranteed under the constitution and so is the right to free and fair elections”.
Mr Ravi cited Sections 33 and 34 of the Parliamentary Election Act which state that if there is an uncontested seat on Nomination Day, it would amount to a walkover and that the seat has then been elected.
Another urgent Pre-Trial Conference was then convened at 3pm for the AGC to clarify if there is then any prejudice to Mr De Costa if this matter is heard after Nomination Day on the 30th of June.
Mr Ravi then reminded the court that uncontested seats will indicate that the seats have been elected, and would it not mean that it would require those elections to be unravelled.
The Senior Assistant Registrar raised questions on what the exact steps for this unravelling would be and if there were legal mechanisms for Mr De Costa to rely on to undo this.
Another issue, he added, was that if there were a majority of seats left uncontested, there would be even more unravelling that needs to be done, as a government would have then been elected.
The AGC then requested for a stand down until 5pm to answer the issue of prejudice to Mr De Costa.
After the meeting was re-convened, the AGC stated that it is not for them to be positing and not for the AGC to suggest how Mr De Costa might or might not be able to resort to any provisions.
The AGC reiterated its argument that it is not prejudicial as the bulk of Mr De Costa’s affidavit relates to campaigning and not the kind of scenario related to uncontested seats.
The Senior Assistant Registrar then went on to say that he was still very vexed as to whether it would be possible to unravel the effects of walkovers.
He added that if the position of the AGC was that it is for Mr De Costa to say how it is to be undone — and since Mr Ravi has said there is no avenue even under Section 90 of the Parliamentary Elections Act, with regards to applications for avoidance of election on certain grounds — then he should lean in favour of the party who will potentially face prejudice that cannot be undone.
The Senior Assistant Registrar eventually decided that the safer course of action is to have the hearing on 29 June at 2.30pm via Zoom before Justice Chua Lee Ming.
“Directions were given to AGC to file its affidavit by Sunday and our respective submissions to be in by 10am on Monday,” said Mr Ravi in a Facebook post.
“Alot of work to be done round the clock by my team.We are doing it pro bono for our client and for all Singaporeans for their basic right to have the right to vote and the right to a free and a fair election to be declared by the Courts as fundamental rights guaranteed under the Singapore constitution,” he added.
Mr Ravi told TOC on Thursday evening: “In a recent case involving John Tan of the SDP, the government has taken the position that the right to vote is not a fundamental right under the Constitution for Singaporeans.”
“It is so sad that Singaporeans do not enjoy the right to vote as a basic right, which is why my client De Costa is raising this challenge, apart from the fact that this election is being held in the midst of a pandemic, where other Commonwealth countries have raised similar legal concerns pertaining to free and fair elections,” Mr Ravi added.