Earlier on 23 June, Singapore citizen Daniel De Costa had filed a constitutional challenge against the Government’s decision to hold an election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Represented by Human Rights lawyer M Ravi of Carson Law Chambers, Mr De Costa had sought court declarations that “the right to vote and the right to free and fair elections are fundamental rights guaranteed to all citizens of Singapore under the Constitution”.
Later on 25 June, the High Court ruled against the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and had directed that the hearing of the constitutional challenge on GE2020 to be on 29 June, earlier than the original date of 2 July.
Mr Ravi posted an update on his Facebook earlier today (17 July), revealing that the rights to vote in Singapore is not a fundamental right in the constitution, but rather “an implied constitutional right arising from the various provisions of the Constitution”.
“The Court stated that, ‘the right to vote is best understood as a right that is found in the Constitution either as a matter of construing it in its entirety or as a matter of necessary implication in the light of the reference to elections.’ They added that, “there is no essential controversy over the existence of the constitutional right to vote.'”
The lawyer further clarified that Mr De Costa wanted a declaration that “the right to vote and the right to free and fair elections are fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution”. His client also requested a declaration that “a prohibitory order be granted against holding GE2020 at that point in time.”
As a result of the constitutional challenge, the Court responded that they “do not have the power to create the right to vote as a fundamental right from the constitution given that it is not expressly stated”.
Here is the list of decisions made by the Court stating:
- That they do not have the power to create the right to vote as a fundamental right from the constitution given that it is not expressly stated;
- The right to vote is not an unenumerated right and that they reject the notion;
- The argument that the right to vote was part of the basic structure of the Constitution and in that sense it is a “fundamental” right which cannot be abrogated by Parliament, is mistaken,
- That it was incumbent on Mr De Costa to demonstrate the specific aspects of the then pending elections that he contends are constitutionally impermissible; and
- That Mr De Costa had no standing to argue the case because he himself had not demonstrated that his personal interests were directly and practically affected.
Mr Ravi further expressed that it was a “silver lining” that the Court of Appeal had at least clarified that a Singaporean’s voting right is a Constitutional right.
The High Court then issued cost orders for $8,924.85, and the Court of Appeal issued cost orders for $15,418.30. The total amount is $24.343.15.
In regards to the application to High Court, Mr Ravi further mentioned that the High Court directed Mr De Costa to pay $20,000 as Security of Costs by 10 pm on the same day in order for the latter to appeal. At that moment, he had a few hours left to gather that sum of money.
Therefore, Mr De Costa appealed to Carson Law Chambers, and so the law firm gave an undertaking to the Government / Attorney-General (AG) to pay $20,000.
The lawyer added that $15,000 was ordered in the Court of Appeal when Mr De Costa’s appeal was dismissed on Nomination Day. The law firm was given the notice to pay the $15,000 and disbursements by 21 July.
Because Mr Ravi took up Mr De Costa’s case on a pro bono basis, the latter had set up a GoGetFunding page to help raise the funds. The lawyer believed that his client deserves the support from every Singaporean who felt that it was the right choice to bring the case and point of argument to Court.
On the GoGetFunding page, it was explained that the final sum to be collected was increased to $25,317 because the funding page charges a 4 per cent fee.
So far, a total of $4,396 was collected from donors, and $20,921 is still needed by next Tuesday. Only ten people had contributed to the crowdfunding, and more were invited to support Mr De Costa.
Expressing that there would be a “threat to democracy” if such voting rights were not challenged to be constitutionally protected, Mr De Costa pleaded fellow Singaporeans to donate to the funding.
“When such rights are not expressed to be constitutionally protected, there will be threat to the democracy and the constitutional supremacy of the Republic of Singapore.”