“Mr Shanmugam repeatedly framed the issue as the sanctity of the judiciary versus someone who might want to “abuse the judiciary” or call judges “biased swine”.
But that does not allow for the possibility that allegations of bias could be made in good faith.
Indeed, Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan asked what recourse someone has if he has “a good faith suspicion that a court proceeding is tainted by impropriety or bias.”
Previous case law required there to be a “real risk” that public confidence will be undermined, rather than merely “a risk”.
The change may sound like semantics. But it significantly lowers the burden of proof, and thus, has implications for how the law could apply.
Mr Mohan, who is an assistant professor of law at Singapore Management University (SMU), noted the Court of Appeal’s 2011 judgment in the Alan Shadrake case, in which the “real risk” test must avoid finding contempt “where there is only a remote or fanciful possibility” that public confidence is undermined.
What if, for instance, a blogger with barely any readers makes a post that alleges bias in court proceedings?
This might not pass the “real risk” test, since an unknown blogger is unlikely to dent public confidence.
But under the Bill’s new formulation, if “remote” or “fanciful” possibilities suffice, then even such small fry could be hauled up for contempt of court.”