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Magna Carta Then And Now: A Symbol Of Freedom And Equal Rights For All, Eugene K B Tan, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Nov 2015

Magna Carta Then And Now: A Symbol Of Freedom And Equal Rights For All, Eugene K B Tan, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

Magna Carta became applicable to Singapore in 1826 when a court system administering English law was established in the Straits Settlements. This remained the case through Singapore’s evolution from Crown colony to independent republic. The Great Charter only ceased to apply in 1993, when Parliament enacted the Application of English Law Act to clarify which colonial laws were still part of Singapore law. Nonetheless, Magna Carta’s legacy in Singapore continues in a number of ways. Principles such as due process of law and the supremacy of law are cornerstones of the rule of law, vital to the success ...


Equality And Singapore’S First Constitutional Challenges To The Criminalization Of Male Homosexual Conduct, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Sep 2015

Equality And Singapore’S First Constitutional Challenges To The Criminalization Of Male Homosexual Conduct, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

In 2013, in Lim Meng Suang and Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon v Attorney-General and Tan Eng Hong v Attorney-General, the High Court of Singapore delivered the first judgments in the jurisdiction considering the constitutionality of section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes acts of 'gross indecency' between two men, whether they occur in public or private. The Court ruled that the provision was not inconsistent with the guarantees of equality before the law and equal protection of the law stated in Article 12(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore. The result was upheld in 2014 by the ...


Foreign Precedents In Constitutional Adjudication By The Supreme Court Of Singapore, 1963–2013, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Mar 2015

Foreign Precedents In Constitutional Adjudication By The Supreme Court Of Singapore, 1963–2013, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

This article surveys the use of foreign precedents in constitutional adjudication by the Supreme Court of Singapore for over a half century during the terms of the first three Chief Justices—Wee Chong Jin (1963–1990), Yong Pung How (1990–2006), and Chan Sek Keong (2006–2012)—and the first year in office of the fourth Chief Justice, Sundaresh Menon (2012–2013). It concludes that while judges have always cited foreign case law, they have only actually applied foreign cases where the wording of the Constitution and the constitutional arrangements in Singapore are fairly analogous to the constitutional texts and ...


Protecting Human Rights: The Approach Of The Singapore Courts, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Dec 2014

Protecting Human Rights: The Approach Of The Singapore Courts, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

The Constitution is the supreme law of Singapore, but have the courts unnecessarily limited their role of upholding the Constitution? This article is based on a speech delivered at an event at the Conrad Centennial Singapore on 4 December 2014 entitled The Role of the Judiciary in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights organized by the Delegation of the European Union to Singapore to commemorate Human Rights Day.


Hougang By-Election Case: What Court Decision On By-Election Reveals, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Aug 2013

Hougang By-Election Case: What Court Decision On By-Election Reveals, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

The Singapore Court of Appeal’s judgment in Vellama d/o Marie Muthu v Attorney-General [2013] SGCA 39 – popularly known as the Hougang by-election case – shows that the Court sees its role as policing the margins rather than involving itself in the heart of politics. The Court held that the Government was incorrect in asserting the Constitution confers on it the discretion not to hold a by-election at all after a parliamentary seat falls vacant. The judgment came as a surprise to those used to a judicial stance fairly deferential towards the Government, but on balance the Court did accord ...


Shall The Twain Never Meet? Competing Narratives And Discourses Of The Rule Of Law In Singapore, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Nov 2012

Shall The Twain Never Meet? Competing Narratives And Discourses Of The Rule Of Law In Singapore, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

This article aims to assess the role played by the rule of law in discourse by critics of the Singapore Government’s policies and in the Government’s responses to such criticisms. It argues that in the past the two narratives clashed over conceptions of the rule of law, but there is now evidence of convergence of thinking as regards the need to protect human rights, though not necessarily as to how the balance between rights and other public interests should be struck. The article also examines why the rule of law must be regarded as a constitutional doctrine in ...


Proportionality In Interpreting Constitutional Rights: A Comparison Between Canada, The United Kingdom And Singapore And Its Implications For Vietnam, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Jul 2012

Proportionality In Interpreting Constitutional Rights: A Comparison Between Canada, The United Kingdom And Singapore And Its Implications For Vietnam, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

Few rights that are guaranteed by constitutions and bills of rights are expressed to be absolute. In many jurisdictions, the legislature is permitted to impose restrictions on rights for specified reasons and under particular conditions. However, constitutional or bill of rights text often do not expressly indicate how the courts should determine that applicants’ rights have been legitimately restricted. To this end, courts in jurisdictions such as Canada and the United Kingdom have adopted the European doctrine of proportionality. Essentially, this requires them to balance opposing types of public interests – the interest sought to be protected by the rights in ...


Proportionality In Interpreting Constitutional Rights: A Comparison Between Canada, The United Kingdom And Singapore And Its Implications For Vietnam [Thuyết Cân Đối Trong Vấn Đề Giải Thích Các Quyền Về Hiến Pháp: So Sánh Giữa Canada, Liên Hiệp Các Vương Quốc Anh Và Singapore Và Kinh Nghiệm Cho Vìệt Nam], Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Jul 2012

Proportionality In Interpreting Constitutional Rights: A Comparison Between Canada, The United Kingdom And Singapore And Its Implications For Vietnam [Thuyết Cân Đối Trong Vấn Đề Giải Thích Các Quyền Về Hiến Pháp: So Sánh Giữa Canada, Liên Hiệp Các Vương Quốc Anh Và Singapore Và Kinh Nghiệm Cho Vìệt Nam], Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

Few rights that are guaranteed by constitutions and bills of rights are expressed to be absolute. In many jurisdictions, the legislature is permitted to impose restrictions on rights for specified reasons and under particular conditions. However, constitutional or bill of rights text often do not expressly indicate how the courts should determine that applicants’ rights have been legitimately restricted. To this end, courts in jurisdictions such as Canada and the United Kingdom have adopted the European doctrine of proportionality. Essentially, this requires them to balance opposing types of public interests – the interest sought to be protected by the rights in ...


The Past, Present And Future Of The Internal Security Act, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Jun 2012

The Past, Present And Future Of The Internal Security Act, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

Assistant Professor Jack Tsen-Ta Lee, who teaches and researches constitutional and administrative law at the School of Law of the Singapore Management University, introduces the Internal Security Act (ISA) and assesses its continued relevance today.


Reforming The Right To Legal Counsel In Singapore, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Apr 2012

Reforming The Right To Legal Counsel In Singapore, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

This is an opinion prepared for the Criminal Law Committee of the Law Society of Singapore on an arrested person’s right to legal counsel in Singapore. Specifically, it deals with the following: (1) it summarizes pertinent aspects of the law relating to the right to legal counsel in Singapore; (2) it surveys a number of ASEAN and Commonwealth jurisdictions to determine how long after apprehension the right to counsel is generally accorded to arrested persons, and compares the legal position in these jurisdictions to the situation in Singapore; and (3) it examines two rights ancillary to the right to ...


A Legal Backgrounder On By-Elections, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Feb 2012

A Legal Backgrounder On By-Elections, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

The expulsion of Yaw Shin Leong, the Member of Parliament for Hougang Single Member Constituency, from the Workers’ Party has once again thrust the issue of the Singapore Government’s policy on by-elections into the limelight. This opinion piece considers whether the Government is right in taking the view that it has wide discretion to determine when, and if, to hold a by-election; and the possible consequences of an existing Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) standing as a candidate in a by-election.


Let Presidential Hopefuls Have Their Say, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Aug 2011

Let Presidential Hopefuls Have Their Say, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

The announcement by the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) of the prospective candidates who have been issued certificates of eligibility for the 2011 presidential election in Singapore makes interesting reading for what it does and does not say. The Committee’s decision-making process is also fairly opaque. It is submitted the rules governing the PEC’s task should be reviewed before the next election. At least, it is hoped future Committees will adopt as constitutional conventions the practices of granting hearings to applicants, announcing decisions well ahead of nomination day, and issuing full reasons.


The Mandatory Death Penalty And A Sparsely Worded Constitution, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Mar 2011

The Mandatory Death Penalty And A Sparsely Worded Constitution, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

It was not unexpected that the Singapore Court of Appeal would reaffirm the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty for certain forms of drug trafficking in Yong Vui Kong v Public Prosecutor [2010] 3 S.L.R 489. ... The appellant made submissions based on Articles 9(1) and 12(1) of the Constitution, which respectively guarantee rights to life and personal liberty, and to equality before the law and equal protection of the law. This note examines aspects of the Article 9(1) arguments.


Interpreting Bills Of Rights: The Value Of A Comparative Approach, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Dec 2006

Interpreting Bills Of Rights: The Value Of A Comparative Approach, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

In certain jurisdictions, among them Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States, the practice of consulting comparative legal materials in interpreting domestic bills of rights has been criticized as illegitimate. This article examines four main concerns: (1) the texts of bills of rights – the argument that a bill of rights is to be interpreted within its own four walls and not in the light of analogies drawn from other jurisdictions; (2) national identity – the argument that a bill of rights embodies the values of a nation's people, and it is wrong to refer to foreign experiences to determine such values ...


Rediscovering The Constitution, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Dec 1994

Rediscovering The Constitution, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

The fundamental liberties in our Constitution involve a study of tensions: between an individual's rights and the community's interests, between the role of the judiciary on the one hand and the executive and legislature on the other. How we should interpret them depends on where we think equilibrium should be established. This depends on two main factors. The first is the proper function of the judiciary as laid down by our Constitution, which is discussed in Part I of this article. The second is the nature of our fundamental liberties, for they are worded with varying degrees of ...


Equal Protection And Sexual Orientation, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee Dec 1994

Equal Protection And Sexual Orientation, Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

Jack Tsen-Ta LEE

Equality is the thread running through the fundamental liberties enshrined in our Constitution. ... Equality, expressed in Art 12 of the [Singapore] Constitution, is also a specific right enforceable by the court. The difficulty comes in applying this deceptively simple concept to real-life situations. ... In considering the validity of legislation, Singapore and Malaysian courts have generally favored rational review, a modest conception of equal protection, unlike their American counterparts which have adopted a more expansive reading in the form of strict and intermediate review. This article examines how these three levels of equal protection review operate, and argues that the scheme ...