High Court rules that SDP’s John Tan ineligible to contest GE
The High Court yesterday rejected an application by opposition politician John Tan for a declaration that he is eligible to run in the upcoming General Election despite being fined $5,000 for contempt of court earlier this year.
Under the Constitution, a person who is convicted of an offence and sentenced to at least a year's jail or a fine of at least $2,000 is disqualified from standing for election as a Member of Parliament.
Mr Tan, the vice-chairman of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), argued that the term "offence" does not extend to quasi-criminal offences such as contempt by scandalising the court.
Justice Aedit Abdullah disagreed. In his written judgment, the judge said the term "offence" in the Constitution is broad enough to include contempt by scandalising the court, also known as criminal contempt.
In October last year, Mr Tan was convicted of scandalising the court over a statement he had made in reference to a matter involving civil rights activist Jolovan Wham.
After he was fined in April this year, Mr Tan sought a court declaration that he is not disqualified from contesting in the next General Election, due by April 2021.
Represented by lawyer M. Ravi, he argued that the phrase "has been convicted of an offence" in the Constitution is ambiguous and can be read as being confined to criminal offences, excluding quasi-criminal offences such as criminal contempt.
Responding to Mr Tan's arguments, the AGC said the ordinary meaning of the term "offence" would include criminal contempt.
The AGC argued that the legislative purpose of the provision is to filter out unsuitable candidates.
Justice Aedit said there was nothing to show that the term "offence" was limited to criminal offences.
Mr Tan is thus disqualified from standing for the election.