Court dismisses bid by 22 death-row inmates for documents in potential lawsuit against A-G

The current application arose out of previous proceedings involving two of the inmates. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The High Court has dismissed an application by 22 death-row inmates to obtain documents and answers to questions in relation to a potential civil suit against the Attorney-General.

The application by the inmates was made under procedures for potential litigants to seek disclosure of information before deciding whether or not to launch a legal action.

The inmates, who are represented by lawyer M. Ravi, are contemplating a lawsuit because letters between them and their lawyers, as well as between them and their families, had been forwarded by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC).

In a judgment on Tuesday (March 16), Justice See Kee Oon said the inmates are precluded from applying for pre-action disclosures against the Attorney-General.

The judge said the complete scope of disclosures against the Government is limited by what is provided for in the Government Proceedings Act.

Justice See said pre-action disclosures are excluded from this scope as they are not expressly provided for, and do not fall within the definition of civil proceedings under the Act.

The judge added that the Attorney-General has already disclosed all the inmates' correspondence received by the AGC and affirmed that the letters were not used to gain any legal advantage.

Also, no correspondence from nine of the inmates had been forwarded to the AGC.

"In my view, the voluntary disclosures made by the Attorney-General already provide the plaintiffs with sufficient documents and information to mount their contemplated claims as they may deem fit," the judge said.

He ordered $10 in nominal costs against the inmates.

The current application arose out of previous proceedings involving two of the 22 inmates, Gobi Avedian and Datchinamurthy Kataiah.

In those proceedings, the Court of Appeal observed that the SPS had copied and forwarded to the AGC certain correspondence between the duo and their lawyers and families.

The apex court ruled last year that prison regulations did not permit the SPS to forward inmates' correspondence to the AGC.

It accepted, however, that this had taken place due to an oversight and not because of an attempt to seek any legal advantage.

Later last year, 11 inmates filed the application for pre-action disclosure.

They contended that they could not start legal proceedings as they were unable to identify the individuals involved and to ascertain the extent of the harm caused to them as they lacked the relevant documents.

Another 11 inmates were later added as plaintiffs.

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