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High Court Judge Choo Han Teck has overturned District Judge John Ng’s decision to acquit five activists for conducting a procession in 2007. Mr Choo ordered that the matter return to DJ Ng for conviction and sentencing.
The AG’s Chambers had appealed DJ Ng’s decision to acquit Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Mr John Tan, Ms Chee Siok Chin, and Mr Chong Kai Xiong for walking from the Speaker’ Corner to Queenstown Remand Prison on 16 Sep 07.
DJ Ng had found that the group was orderly and did not fit the definition of a procession as given in the Miscellaneous Offences Act (MOA), and acquitted the defendants.
The AG appealed his decision which was heard on 16 Mar 10. Mr Choo Han Teck had reserved his judgment after hearng submissions from both parties as well as from amicus curiae (friend of court) Ms Cheah Wui Leng, associate professor of the Law Faculty at NUS.
Ms Cheah’s task was to assist the court in helping to derive the meaning of a “procession” under the MOA. She had agreed with DJ Ng that “because no disturbance occured and that the respondents were sometimes in pairs and sometimes singly,” the activity cold not be interpreted as a procession.
Despite the opinion of Ms Cheah, Judge Choo decided otherwise. This is shocking especially in view of the fact that Ms Cheah was appointed by court itself. Ms Cheah wrote in her submissions:
It is respectfully suggested that the MOA Rules refer to processions that are organised and cause-based nature, based on the findings of the lower court, the respondents’ behaviour does not fall within this definition.
The matter reverts back to DJ Ng who will now have to convict and sentence the defendants. When approached by reporters outside the courtroom, Mr Ambalam said: “The Judge’s ruling did not come as a surprise.”
A simple act of conducting a walk that, even according to the court, posed no public disorder or nuisance is not allowed in Singapore. Yet Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong insists that Singapore is a democracy based on the rule of law.