3 cases challenging Section 377A to be heard next month

Joint hearings for separate filings, says LGBT rights activist Roy Tan who is latest plaintiff

Dr Roy Tan filed the latest challenge against Section 377A last month.
Dr Roy Tan filed the latest challenge against Section 377A last month.

Three court cases filed separately by three different men - all with the single goal of challenging the constitutionality of Section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalises consensual sex between men - will be heard next month.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activist Tan Seng Kee, better known as Roy Tan, said yesterday that his lawyer M. Ravi from Carson Law Chambers had attended a pre-trial conference on Tuesday.

Dr Tan, a retired general practitioner who filed the latest challenge against the law last month, said hearings for his case and two other similar cases have been scheduled for Nov 13, 15, 18, 20, 21 and 22. The dates are subject to change at the judge's discretion.

The two other challenges were filed last year by disc jockey Johnson Ong Ming, then 43, also known by his stage name DJ Big Kid, and Mr Bryan Choong, then 41, former executive director of LGBT non-profit organisation Oogachaga.

Section 377A criminalises acts of "gross indecency" between men, and carries a two-year jail term.

The cases argue that Section 377A is inconsistent with various articles of the Singapore Constitution. The Attorney-General is listed as the defendant in all cases.

They will be heard in the presence of all the lawyers arguing for their respective clients on those dates, Dr Tan said in a statement.

"The court may ask questions directed at the lawyers of the other cases while they are all in the courtroom at the same time."

He looks forward to having a good hearing and is hoping to have Section 377A finally struck down with the "novel arguments" conceived by his lawyer.

In court documents seen earlier by The Straits Times, Dr Tan had said Section 377A is inconsistent with Articles 9, 12 and 14 of the Constitution, which guarantee the rights to life and liberty, equal protection under the law and free speech and expression.

Dr Tan said in a statement on Sept 25 that the challenge is based on "novel arguments".

For example, the public prosecutor has discretion on whether or not to prosecute an accused person under Section 377A, and the Government has said the law will not be enforced against acts done in private, Dr Tan said.

He added that this is incongruous with Section 14 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which requires the police to unconditionally investigate all complaints of suspected arrestable offences.

"This subjects gay men to the potential distress of an investigation into private conduct, where they have a legitimate expectation that the state will decline to prosecute," 61-year-old Dr Tan said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2019, with the headline 3 cases challenging Section 377A to be heard next month. Subscribe