SINGAPORE – Attorney Li Shengwu submitted to the Court of Appeals on Friday (January 18) their argument for canceling a court order that allows the Attorney General to serve letters about him in the United States for insulting the court.
Their argument involves two points that the Apex court told them and the Attorney General's Room (AGC) to discuss.
The first is whether there is a legal basis for the court to exercise substantive jurisdiction over someone who is abroad when the process of humiliation begins.
If the answer to the first question is yes, the second is whether the new rules that allow court letters to be insulted outside Singapore can be applied retroactively, or if there are other rules that can be applied to provide jurisdiction.
AGC has served contempt papers about Li based on existing law, and argues that this is justified.
Rules that allow court letters to be served are insulted outside Singapore into effect in October 2017, a few months after the AGC began a process of insulting Mr Li, who is the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Li then submitted an application to overturn the High Court's order, which was dismissed by a High Court judge who also rejected requests for leave to appeal.
He then asked permission to appeal from the High Court, and received the green light to do so last September.
The argument about this case was tried on Friday by Supreme Court Chief Sundaresh Menon and Appeal Judge Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong in the overcrowded courtroom.
Acting for Li, attorney Abraham Vergis of Providence Law said the parts of the law relied on by the AGC did not provide a basis for the court to exercise substantive jurisdiction over someone who was abroad when the legal process began.
During the trial, the judges questioned Ng's decision to use a different part of the Supreme Court for Justice as the jurisdiction for his argument than before.
"This basically left the position taken by AG until then," said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.
Responding to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Mr Ng said: "I can only apologize and say that I am wrong to assume that the extent of the question allows the parties that we can finally take."
He stated that AGC's position on the basis of jurisdiction "has not changed and will not change", and urged the Court of Appeal to refuse Li's appeal with fees.
During the trial, Mr. Vergis was also asked whether Mr. Li was in Singapore when he made his position in July 2017.
In the post, Li said that the Singapore Government was "very religious and has a flexible court system". It was made in connection with the ongoing family dispute between PM Lee and his brothers over the fate of establishing Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38 Oxley Road.
AGC has stated that Mr. Li was in Singapore when he committed a violation, in support of their request to serve court papers about him abroad.
Mr. Vergis did not answer that question. When pressed, he said: "As far as it seems to me the only evidence before the court, and there seems to be no conflicting evidence, one can say that the court might consider that argument."
The High Court has ruled this case.