Singapore GE2020: Court of Appeal dismisses legal bid to postpone election

The case was filed by human rights lawyer M. Ravi (right) on behalf of Daniel De Costa, both seen here outside the State Courts on Jan 20, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - The Court of Appeal on Tuesday (June 30) dismissed a constitutional challenge seeking to postpone the election, brought by lawyer M. Ravi on behalf of his client Daniel De Costa.

Mr Ravi had argued that his client's constitutional right to a "free and fair" election had been violated because of changes that have been made to the electoral process in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The court, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash, rejected his arguments without calling for Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair to respond.

De Costa was ordered to pay costs of $15,000 to the Attorney-General's Chambers for the appeal, which was held on an expedited basis via video conference, after his case was first dismissed by the High Court on Monday evening (June 29).

De Costa had filed an application to the High Court on June 23, the same day that Parliament was dissolved, for the pending election to be postponed to a time when it is possible for everyone to vote.

He asked the court to prohibit the Returning Officer from proceeding with the election and to declare that "the right to free and fair elections is a fundamental right" under the Constitution.

Mr Ravi argued that changes to the electoral process under the Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Act, passed by Parliament in May, will deprive the electorate of a "free and fair" election.

In dismissing the appeal, the apex court said it was "evident that the appellant really had no case to mount" in connection with the right to vote.

"It is correct to say as a matter of principle that elections should be free and fair but it falls on the appellant to identify specific aspects of what this requires, how this attracts constitutional status and how a breach of this is threatened and on none of these were we presented with even an arguable case," said the court.

Among other things, Mr Ravi had argued that more than 200,000 Singaporeans overseas may not be able to vote owing to travel restrictions.

"However, he was unable to identify the constitutional basis upon which it could be said that the Government had an obligation to provide a means for every Singaporean anywhere in the world to be able to cast their ballots," said the court.

The court said De Costa's lack of legal standing to bring the case was also a basis to dismiss the appeal.

For instance, while he raised the issue about the rights of voters overseas, De Costa himself is not overseas.

"He has not demonstrated that his right to vote is in any way affected," said the court.

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