The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has rejected Singapore citizen Daniel De Costa’s proposal to pay costs and disbursements in instalments following the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of his constitutional challenge against holding an election during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr De Costa had offered to pay S$500 per month on the 15th of each month starting August as he is currently unemployed as a result of the pandemic.
His counsel M Ravi of Carson Law Chambers told TOC that the High Court had ordered his client to pay a total of S$9,076.05, comprising S$8,000 in costs and S$1076.05 in disbursements.
The Court of Appeal had ordered his client to pay the AGC S$15,000 in costs when Mr De Costa’s appeal was dismissed on Nomination Day. Carson Law Chambers was given the notice to pay the S$15,000 and disbursements by 21 July.
TOC learnt that the law firm has paid for the amount that it has promised to cover.
Mr De Costa filed his constitutional challenge on 23 June, in which he sought court declarations that “the right to vote and the right to free and fair elections are fundamental rights guaranteed to all citizens of Singapore under the Constitution”.
His client also requested a declaration that “a prohibitory order be granted against holding GE2020 at that point in time.”
Later on 25 June, the High Court ruled against the AGC and set the hearing of the constitutional challenge on Nomination Day on 29 June, earlier than the original date of 2 July.
Mr Ravi in a Facebook post on 17 July reiterated his argument that the right to vote in Singapore is not a fundamental right in the constitution, but rather “an implied constitutional right arising from the various provisions of the Constitution”.
“The Court stated that ‘the right to vote is best understood as a right that is found in the Constitution either as a matter of construing it in its entirety or as a matter of necessary implication in the light of the reference to elections.’ They added that “there is no essential controversy over the existence of the constitutional right to vote.’”
The court, he said, reasoned that “they do not have the power to create the right to vote as a fundamental right from the constitution given that it is not expressly stated”.
The court also reasoned that:
- The right to vote is not an unenumerated right and that they reject the notion;
- The argument that the right to vote was part of the basic structure of the Constitution and in that sense it is a “fundamental” right which cannot be abrogated by Parliament, is mistaken;
- That it was on Mr De Costa to demonstrate the specific aspects of the then-pending elections that he contends are constitutionally impermissible; and;
- That Mr De Costa had no standing to argue the case because he himself had not demonstrated that his personal interests were directly and practically affected.
Mr Ravi pointed out that it was a “silver lining” that the Court of Appeal had at least clarified that a Singaporean’s voting right is a constitutional right.
As Mr Ravi took up Mr De Costa’s case on a pro bono basis, the latter had set up a GoGetFunding page to raise funds for his case.