Chief Justice Yong: I didnt have a good breakfast

In dismissing Mr Gandhi Ambalams appeal of a fine of $2,000 imposed on him, Chief Justice Yong Pung How said that it was because he did not have a good breakfast that morning.

Mr Gandhi, a Singapore Democrats leader, was fined for violating the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act on 1 May last year outside the Istana. He had accompanied Dr Chee Soon Juan, SDP secretary-general, to hold a public rally outside the presidential grounds on May Day.

Anyone fined $2,000 or more is barred from standing for elections for five years.

Chief Justice Yong made the comment when Mr Gandhi cited that his fine was manifestly excessive and asked for it to be reduced.

The appellant pointed out that Mr Yong had reduced Dr Chees fine on a previous conviction. Mr Yong then replied that he must have had a good breakfast that morning when he made that decision, which was not the case in Mr Gandhis appeal.

The chief justice had earlier asked Mr Gandhi whether he had gone to the Istana on Labour Day to see the President of Singapore. Mr Gandhi said he was there with Dr Chee to speak at a rally to highlight the plight of Singapore workers.

The SDP leader had told Mr Yong that he had contested in two elections and indicated that he was not successful on both occasions. Mr Gandhi said: I was shocked when he asked me whether I had lost my election deposit and later said that he wouldnt vote for me anyway.

Mr Gandhi also indicated that he was seeking to have the fine reduced so that he will not be disqualified from standing for elections in the future. Mr Yong replied, But why do you want to be elected? The chief justice added: Ill save you the trouble and proceeded to dismiss the appeal.

Mr Gandhi had earlier submitted arguments to the High Court in which he maintained that the $2,000 fine was manifestly excessive. He told the court that on February 2, 1999, Dr Chee was fined $1,400 for his first offence of speaking without a licence at Raffles Place in December 1998.

For speaking at the same place a second time during lunch-hour, Dr Chee was fined $2,400 by a District Judge on February 24, 1999. But this amount was reduced to $1,900 on appeal before Chief Justice Yong himself on May 25, 1999. However, after hearing Mr Gandhi, Chief Justice Yong upheld the fine of $2,000 imposed by a district judge on October 9, 2002 and dismissed the appeal.