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Court dismisses challenge to stop polls from being held now

Court dismisses challenge to stop polls from being held now

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 30 Jun 2020
Author: Charmaine Ng

There is no basis for the Prohibitory Order lawyer M. Ravi was seeking on behalf of his client Daniel De Costa: Justice Chua Lee Ming

The High Court has dismissed a constitutional challenge that sought to stop the general election from being held at this time.

Justice Chua Lee Ming said there is no basis for the Prohibitory Order lawyer M. Ravi was seeking on behalf of his client Daniel De Costa, in a bid to stop the Returning Officer from holding an election now.

The judge said the function of the Returning Officer, who is a public officer appointed by the Prime Minister to oversee the election, is a "matter of duty, not discretion".

He also ordered De Costa, who is facing criminal defamation charges in a separate case, to pay $8,000 in costs to the attorney-general. De Costa is appealing against the outcome, with a Court of Appeal hearing set for this morning, before Nomination Day proceedings begin at 11am.

The challenge was filed last week, hours after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in a nationwide TV broadcast that he was calling a general election.

Yesterday, Mr Ravi said the key provisions under the Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Act, read with campaign guidelines issued by the Elections Department (ELD), are "disproportionately unfair" to Singaporeans and opposition parties.

The Act was passed in Parliament last month. It allows for those on stay-home notices at designated facilities to vote outside their electoral divisions at special polling stations, while those on quarantine orders or stay-home notices at home will be excused from voting.

For the latter group of people, the Act states they will not be able to violate their quarantine orders claiming their right to vote as a defence, Mr Ravi said yesterday. He added that this is a "serious violation" of their rights as Singapore citizens.

Mr Ravi also said it will be difficult for overseas voters to travel to one of the 10 overseas polling stations due to lockdown measures. He added that ELD campaign guidelines are unfair and insufficient to level the playing field between the Government and opposition parties.

Responding for the attorney-general, Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair said the case was "completely without legal merit" and is being pursued to make "political and scandalous attacks" in an "egregious abuse of court process".

He added that there is no evidence that the pandemic will abate between now and January next year, when Parliament would be automatically dissolved at the end of the Government's term.

Mr Nair also said the plaintiff's complaints about campaigning rules are based on "outdated facts, misconceptions, speculation and outright falsehoods".

He said: "The plaintiff's attempt to derail this general election is made in contravention of the law and in ignorance of the science and the facts, and is nothing more than a naked attempt at political grandstanding."

He also asked for the case to be dismissed with costs.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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