Lawyer M. Ravi's constitutional challenge against elected presidency dismissed

Lawyer M. Ravi will have to pay $6,000 in legal costs and reimburse the Attorney-General's Chambers about $2,000 for the cost of filing court documents.
Lawyer M. Ravi will have to pay $6,000 in legal costs and reimburse the Attorney-General's Chambers about $2,000 for the cost of filing court documents.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A constitutional challenge mounted by human rights lawyer M. Ravi against the elected presidency was dismissed by a High Court judge on Thursday (June 15).

Justice See Kee Oon found that Mr Ravi had no legal standing to bring the challenge.

The judge also found that recent changes to the elected presidency, as well as the entire scheme itself, which Mr Ravi had said were unconstitutional, had been validly passed and were legally effective.

Mr Ravi will have to pay the legal costs of $6,000, as well as reimburse the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) about $2,000 for their cost of filing court documents, he said on Facebook.

Mr Ravi brought the case, which was heard behind closed doors, as a private citizen, citing that the entire elected presidency scheme, set up in 1991, was unconstitutional.

He argued that the criteria which people must meet to run for president deprive citizens of their right to stand for public office.

He also contended that the changes to the elected presidency to ensure minority representation, which Parliament approved last November, discriminate on the grounds of ethnicity.

But Justice See found that Mr Ravi did not have legal standing to bring the challenge as he did not meet at least one of the three criteria which a person has to fulfill, before he can mount a challenge as a private citizen relating to public law.

The three criteria are that: he must have personal interest in the matter; he must prove that there are special damages to him; there must be serious illegality going on.

Besides that, the changes to the elected presidency, as well as the entire scheme itself, were also found to be validly passed and legally effective, and so did not contravene the constitution, the judge found.

Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair represented the AGC.

Mr Ravi has a week - until June 22 - to file an appeal. He previously said on Facebook that he would appeal if he lost.

Earlier in the day, the court also dismissed three applications by Mr Ravi.

The first was to disqualify Mr Nair, a retired People's Action Party MP who has since left the party, from arguing the case.

Mr Ravi contended that Mr Nair was partisan, and had a conflict of interest between representing the people and representing the PAP-led government.

The second was to have the case heard in open court.

The third was to adjourn the hearing to a later date, pending another legal challenge related to the Constitution which he filed, said Mr Ravi on Facebook during a midday break.