SINGAPORE: A High Court judge has reserved judgment on whether a Hougang resident will have to bear legal costs following her bid to bring the Hougang by—election case to court.
Madam Vellama Marie Muthu had initiated the case in March this year, after former Hougang Member of Parliament Yaw Shin Leong vacated his post.
The Attorney—General’s Chambers (AGC) then sought costs against Madam Vellama after her bid was dismissed by the court in August.
The AGC said that this was in accordance with the general legal principle that the winning party is entitled to legal costs.
The AGC added that on at least two occasions, after the writ of election was issued and the by—election for Hougang single—member constituency completed in May 2012, Madam Vellama was asked to discontinue her proceedings, but she rejected both invitations. This led to further costs being incurred.
Last week, Justice Philip Pillai directed both parties to submit their findings on whether there are exceptions to the general rule that the losing party pays the winning party in such cases.
He further instructed them to research if there were judicial precedents in Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom.
At a closed—door hearing on Tuesday, Madam Vellama’s lawyer Mr M Ravi referred to a previous judgment by Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong which asserted that public bodies must be protected from paying costs in carrying out functions that are of public interest.
Mr Ravi said that while Madam Vellama is a private citizen, she was carrying out a public duty in her court bid and that it gave closure to an issue of general public administration.
As such, the "wide public interest" of her bid should exempt her from the general rule of paying costs.
Mr Ravi, who is representing Madam Vellama pro—bono, also noted in his submissions that in that respect, it would be both "unjust and unreasonable" for costs to be ordered against her.
Justice Pillai will deliver his judgment at a later date.
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