SINGAPORE - A newspaper vendor was sentenced on Wednesday (June 17) to two weeks' jail for breaching his stay-home notice (SHN) to deliver newspapers in March this year.
Singaporean Palanivelu Ramasamy, 48, pleaded guilty to one charge under the Infectious Diseases (Covid-19 Stay Orders) Regulations 2020 on Wednesday.
The court heard that Palanivelu, who is a registered vendor with Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), distributes newspapers around the Thomson area and has two employees.
On March 21, he returned to Singapore from India, where he had stayed for a month.
He was issued an SHN which required him to remain at home from the day of his arrival to April 4.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Lim said that Palanivelu knew he could not leave his residence, even if it was to buy food and essentials.
"He was informed that the Government would conduct checks to ensure that he compiled with the SHN," the DPP added.
On March 30, Palanivelu received a call in the afternoon that his workers had not distributed newspapers to customers at Goldhill Plaza along Thomson Road.
He decided to deliver the newspapers himself. He put on a mask and left his Towner Road flat to take a bus to Goldhill Plaza.
When he arrived, he retrieved the newspapers from near the building's security office and delivered them to 14 units across eight storeys of the building before taking a bus home.
His daughter later informed him that auxiliary police officers had paid a visit to his home while he was out.
"In total, the accused had been outside of his place of residence for two hours and 15 minutes," DPP Lim said.
In urging the court to impose a jail term of at least two weeks, the DPP said that it was "completely unnecessary" for Palanivelu to have left his residence, as alternative options were available to deliver the newspapers.
The vendor could have requested either of his two employees to deliver the newspapers, or asked his customers to collect the newspapers themselves by explaining that he was unable to leave home, the DPP added.
Palanivelu's lawyers, Mr Aaron Lee and Ms Teo Li Hui, said their client had decided to personally resolve the situation "out of what he perceived then as a sense of loyalty to his customers and dedication to his work".
They also said he had left his residence only "for the sole purpose of protecting his livelihood" and was "simply responding to a work emergency".
Senior District Judge Bala Reddy disagreed, finding that there was no emergency in the circumstances and that Palanivelu had a "misplaced sense of duty".
Noting that the mitigation plea included SPH's testimony for Palanivelu, which urged the court for leniency, the judge said the vendor could have turned to SPH for help at that time.
In an earlier statement, SPH said that it was aware of Palanivelu's case.
"We are rendering him and his family the necessary assistance to help them through this difficult period," it said.
"Since the implementation of Dorscon orange and circuit breaker measures, we have constantly reminded our news vendor network of the need to comply with the prevailing regulations, even though this may result in later deliveries to our subscribers."
SPH also added that it had provided these vendors with the necessary protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, for them to carry out their jobs safely.
Palanivelu's sentence was deferred to July 1 so that he can settle family and work matters.
He could have been jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000 for his offence.
This article has been edited for clarity.