The Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that papers for contempt of court had been properly served on Mr Li Shengwu in the United States in 2017, dismissing his challenge against the validity of the process.
The decision paves the way for the substantive arguments to be heard in the case against Mr Li, the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, over a Facebook post he put up on July 15, 2017.
Mr Li stated in the post that "the Singapore Government is very litigious and has a pliant court system".
The Attorney-General started contempt proceedings against Mr Li the following month, after he failed to comply with a request to remove the post.
Mr Li's appeal against a High Court order that allowed the papers to be served on him in the US was heard in January this year.
In a 66-page written decision released yesterday, the three-judge Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Li's appeal.
The apex court held that service of the papers on Mr Li complied with a provision in the Rules of Court that permits papers to be served out of Singapore in cases where a claim is made under any written law.
I am of course disappointed with the judgment. However, the A-G will still need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that my private Facebook post somehow scandalised Singapore's judiciary.
MR LI SHENGWU, posting about the ruling on his Facebook page.
"Service out of the jurisdiction was properly effected on the appellant because the A-G's claim for the court to exercise its power to punish for contempt was properly a claim made under written law," said Judge of Appeal Steven Chong, who wrote the judgment.
The written law in question was Section 7 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, which gives the court power to punish for contempt, said the court, which also comprised Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang.
Commenting on the decision, Mr Li said on his Facebook page: "I am of course disappointed with the judgment. However, the A-G will still need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that my private Facebook post somehow scandalised Singapore's judiciary."
His post was related to a family dispute involving his father Lee Hsien Yang, his aunt Lee Wei Ling and the Prime Minister over the fate of the Oxley Road home of their late father Lee Kuan Yew, who was Singapore's founding prime minister.
On Sept 27, 2017, the A-G obtained leave, or permission, from the High Court to serve contempt of court papers on Mr Li in the US.
The papers were personally served on Mr Li on Oct 17 that year at his workplace at Harvard Uni-versity, and he subsequently mounted a challenge against the service process.
After the High Court rejected his bid, Mr Li appealed further.
In its judgment, the Court of Appeal noted that the A-G's position "shifted" at the appeal, when he relied on a different provision as the basis of the court's jurisdiction to hear contempt proceedings.
"In discharging his responsibility of safeguarding the public interest, the A-G should adopt a clear and consistent position as to the foundation of the court's jurisdiction for contempt cases," said the court.
Responding to these observations, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said in a statement that the new arguments were raised to answer questions raised by the court.
"Nevertheless, AGC notes the court's comments, and will stand guided by them," it said. "AGC has always taken a strict view of contempt of court and prosecuted them when they are egregious."