June 15 court date set for constitutional challenge against changes to elected presidency

SINGAPORE - The constitutional challenge mounted by human rights lawyer M Ravi against changes made to the elected presidency last year, will be heard on June 15.

The date was fixed following a pre-trial conference at the Supreme Court on Monday (June 5).

The hearing is unlikely to last more than a day, and will be heard in chambers by Justice See Kee Oon.

This means it is not open to the public.

Mr Ravi said on Facebook on Wednesday (June 7) that he will file an application to have the case heard in open court, as he argues that it concerns questions of public importance.

His case will be heard two weeks before another legal challenge, which is filed by former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock.

Dr Tan is challenging the timing of the reserved presidential election, which is to be held in September. His court date is June 29.

Last November, Parliament approved changes to the Constitution to tighten the qualifying criteria for presidential candidates.

The House also introduced a provision to reserve a presidential election for candidates from a racial group that has not been represented in the office for five continuous terms.

Mr Ravi contends that the changes are unconstitutional because they deprive citizens of their right to stand for public office, and discriminate on the grounds of ethnicity.

Dr Tan accepts the constitutional changes, but questions whether the timing of the reserved election, as set out in the Presidential Elections Act, is consistent with the constitutional amendments.

The Government began counting the five terms from the time of Mr Wee Kim Wee, the first president vested with the powers of the elected presidency.

But Dr Tan says the counting of five terms should start with Mr Ong Teng Cheong, the first president to be elected. He thus disagrees with the Government's decision to reserve the upcoming election for candidates from the Malay community.

Mr Ravi, a non-practising lawyer, will represent himself while the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) will be represented by Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair.

In his Facebook post, Mr Ravi also said that he filed an application on Wednesday to disqualify Mr Nair from arguing the case, because he was a former MP from the ruling People's Action Party.

Mr Nair, a senior counsel, was a PAP MP from 2006 to 2015.

He is no longer a party member.

An AGC spokesman told The Straits Times "it will be studying the papers" filed by Mr Ravi.

The Court will decide on the application at a later date.