13 Aug 2013

Singapore: Tan Eng Hong makes application to intervene in anti-gay sex law appeal

The first man to challenge Singapore's law which criminalises sex between men has today made an application to the High Court to be recognised as an interested party and to intervene in Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee's upcoming Court of Appeal hearing as the outcome of this appeal may affect Tan's case in which judgment is still pending.

Tan Eng Hong, who brought the first legal challenge in September 2010 to have section 377A declared discriminatory and unconstitutional, has made an application to the High Court to be recognised as an interested party in the Court of Appeal hearing scheduled for December 2013, according to a media statement issued by Tan’s lawyer M Ravi today. The law currently prohibits sex between men and provides for a jail term of up to two years.

Tan Eng Hong is represented by M Ravi (above).

The hearing in December has been scheduled to hear the case of Gary Lim and Mr Kenneth Chee, who made their own challenge before the High Court, following a Court of Appeal decision – resulting from Tan’s earlier challenge – that all gay men may have a right to be heard before the Court on the issue of whether s377A infringes on their Constitutional protections to such a degree that it may be struck down by the Courts.

When contacted by Fridae, M Ravi said that he hopes to be able to present his arguments during the hearing so that the Court has the “fullest opportunity to hear the arguments” as not being able to do so may “abbreviate his client’s rights to the appeal process” and impact his client’s case which is still pending.

As noted in the media statement, Lim and Chee’s case was advanced ahead of Tan’s hearing before the High Court. It read: “The High Court Judge, Justice Quentin Loh, who heard both matters within a month of each other earlier this year, issued a judgement in Lim and Chee’s case on 9 April 2013, roughly five months from the date of their original application before the Court. Tan, in the meantime, has received no judgement from the High Court, though it has been two years and 11 months since his matter came before the Court.”

As such, Tan is seeking to intervene in Lim and Chee's appeal as the outcome of this appeal will affect his case in which judgment is still pending. He is asking the Court to “consider the Constitutional guarantees providing for a fair trial, ensuring the right to due process and equal treatment before the law when deliberating on his application to the Court.”

Lim and Chee last month announced a new legal team comprising Senior Counsel Deborah Barker of KhattarWong LLP, one of Singapore’s largest law firms; and England’s former attorney-general Queen’s Counsel Peter Goldsmith. A hearing on whether Lord Goldsmith can be admitted to present the case alongside Barker will be heard in an open court before Justice VK Rajah on August 29. Queen’s Counsels are allowed by Singapore courts only if they have expertise that is relevant to the case or if there are special circumstances such as a lack of suitable local lawyers. Lord Goldsmith will represent the couple pro bono. Lim and Chee's spokesperson was unable to respond to queries by press time when contacted.