Amarjeet Singh v PP

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeSundaresh Menon CJ
Judgment Date30 March 2021
Docket NumberCriminal Motion No 36 of 2020
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Amarjeet Singh
and
Public Prosecutor

[2021] SGHC 73

Sundaresh Menon CJ

Criminal Motion No 36 of 2020

General Division of the High Court

Criminal Procedure and Sentencing — Initiation of proceedings — Accused person filing criminal motion to enforce plea agreement allegedly struck with Prosecution — Whether criminal motion was correct mode by which to attempt to enforce alleged plea agreement

Held, granting leave to withdraw application:

(1) A criminal motion was typically or ordinarily brought for some purpose that was ancillary to a pre-existing criminal matter. They were commonly filed to seek an order that was in some way connected to or supportive of a primary action. Such orders were fundamentally tethered to the conduct of the main trial or appeal or application for revision and the effort to ensure that the correct outcome was reached as a result of that trial or appeal or application for review: at [27].

(2) The criminal motion was a mode of process that was primarily invoked when seeking a form of relief that was ancillary to or supportive of the conduct of a primary criminal action, such actions being those that invoked the original, appellate or revisionary criminal jurisdiction of the court: at [28].

(3) Recourse to criminal motions should not subvert established processes, safeguards and constraints. The criminal motion, although endowed with a high degree of procedural flexibility, was not intended to be a mode of process by which the attendant procedural safeguards that applied to certain originating actions or appeals or revisions could be circumvented: at [32].

(4) The use of a criminal motion should not be a means by which a party sought to circumvent the general rule forbidding appeals against interlocutory or procedural rulings. This prohibition preserved the momentum of the criminal process and ensured that the progress of a criminal matter was not undermined by every conceivable grievance arising from each of the many interlocutory rulings which a judge would inevitably make throughout the course of trial: at [33].

(5) The jurisdictional soundness of the present application was assessed by examining whether it was, in fact, brought within the court's criminal jurisdiction by: (a) constituting a primary action invoking or purporting to invoke the court's criminal jurisdiction, or (b) seeking specific reliefs incidental to or supportive of a primary action invoking the original, appellate or revisionary criminal jurisdiction of the court: at [34].

(6) This application was not an invocation of the court's original criminal jurisdiction. That jurisdiction concerned the court's trial jurisdiction. Here, there was no trial and the application did not relate to the proper or fair conduct of a pending trial: at [40].

(7) The real point of the application was to stop the Prosecution from proceeding with its intended prosecution of the offence under s 353 of the Penal Code. This was effectively an attempt to secure public law remedies which were rightfully pursued under O 53 of the Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2014 Rev Ed) (“ROC”) and granted pursuant to the court's supervisory civil jurisdiction: at [41].

(8) This attempt to control the conduct of the Prosecution was not ancillary to any parent criminal proceeding but was instead an independent attempt to persuade the court to act in its supervisory (civil) capacity by exercising its powers of judicial review over the Attorney-General's exercise of his prosecutorial discretion. This would effectively result in judicial review being sought without first obtaining leave when the grant of leave was a necessary precondition to a party invoking the court's exercise of its powers of judicial review: at [42].

(9) Allowing such an endeavour to proceed by way of criminal motion would allow Mr Singh to evade the sort of analysis that typically applied to applications for judicial review. He would, for example, not have to concern himself with demonstrating that alternative remedies had been exhausted or that the relief had a practical usefulness: at [43].

Case(s) referred to

Ang Cheng Hai v PP [1995] 3 SLR(R) 151; [1995] 3 SLR 201 (refd)

Azman bin Jamaludin v PP [2012] 1 SLR 615 (refd)

Bachoo Mohan Singh v PP [2010] 1 SLR 966 (refd)

Ewe Pang Kooi v PP [2015] 2 SLR 672 (refd)

Goh Kah Heng v PP [2009] 3 SLR(R) 409; [2009] 3 SLR 409 (refd)

Haron bin Mundir v Singapore Amateur Athletic Association [1991] 2 SLR(R) 494; [1992] 1 SLR 18 (refd)

Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi v PP [2017] 2 SLR 741 (refd)

James Raj s/o Arokiasamy v PP [2014] 3 SLR 750 (refd)

Jeyaretnam Kenneth Andrew v AG [2014] 1 SLR 345 (refd)

Kho Jabing v PP [2016] 3 SLR 135 (refd)

Kiew Ah Cheng David v PP [2007] 1 SLR(R) 1188; [2007] 1 SLR 1188 (refd)

Kim Gwang Seok v PP [2012] 4 SLR 821 (refd)

Knight Glenn Jeyasingam v PP [1998] 3 SLR(R) 196; [1999] 3 SLR 362 (folld)

Lee Cheong Ngan v PP [2004] SGHC 91 (refd)

Lee Yuen Hong v PP [2000] 1 SLR(R) 604; [2000] 2 SLR 339 (refd)

Mah Kiat Seng v PP [2011] 3 SLR 859 (refd)

Muhd Munir v Noor Hidah [1990] 2 SLR(R) 348; [1990] SLR 999 (refd)

Nalpon Zero Geraldo Mario, Re [2013] 3 SLR 258 (refd)

Ng Chye Huey v PP [2007] 2 SLR(R) 106; [2007] 2 SLR 106 (refd)

PP v GCK [2020] 1 SLR 486 (refd)

Ramalingam Ravinthran v AG [2012] 2 SLR 49 (distd)

Xu Yuanchen v PP [2021] SGHC 64 (folld)

Yap Keng Ho v PP [2007] 1 SLR(R) 259; [2007] 1 SLR 259 (refd)

Yong Vui Kong v PP [2012] 2 SLR 872 (distd)

Facts

Mr Amarjeet Singh (“Mr Singh”) was arrested for using criminal force on a police officer. The officer was allegedly pushed on the shoulder in the course of executing his duties as a public servant. As such, Mr Singh was originally investigated for a potential offence under s 353 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) (“the Penal Code”). Mr Singh was eventually charged with an offence under s 352 of the Penal Code instead.

Mr Singh alleged that in pre-trial discussions with the Prosecution, the deputy public prosecutor (“DPP”) in charge of the file at the time had promised that the Prosecution would only seek a non-custodial sentence under s 352 of the Penal Code. On that understanding, Mr Singh decided that he would plead guilty when the time came for his plea to be taken. Sometime afterwards, a new DPP took charge of the matter and assessed that the s 352 charge was not commensurate with the gravity of Mr Singh's offence in the light of his culpability. As such, the charge was amended to one under s 353 of the Penal Code. This development was conveyed to Mr Singh's lawyer over the telephone. Mr Singh's lawyer was also allegedly told that the Prosecution would seek a custodial sentence against Mr Singh.

Mr Singh, as a result, elected not to plead guilty and took the position that there was an enforceable plea agreement between him and the Prosecution. He made an oral application before a district judge (the “District Judge”), seeking enforcement of the alleged plea agreement. This was dismissed by the District Judge who considered that he had no jurisdiction to grant such an order. Mr Singh subsequently filed the present application by way of criminal motion to the High Court.

Legislation referred to

Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1985 Rev Ed, 1999 Reprint) Art 12(1)

Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 2012 Rev Ed) ss 149M, 149M(1), 374, 377, 383, 389, 390, 392, 394, 394C, 394J, 395, 397, 400, 401, 404, 405, 408B, Pt XX, Pt XX Div 1B, Pt XX Div 5

Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) ss 352, 353

Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2014 Rev Ed) O 53

State Courts Act (Cap 321, 2007 Rev Ed) s 19(3)(b)

Supreme Court (Criminal Appeals) Rules (Cap 322, R 6, 1997 Rev Ed)

Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) ss 15(1)(a), 16(1)(a), 19, 19(b), 24, 27

Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Act 2019 (Act 40 of 2019)

Rakesh s/o Pokkan Vasu, Gomez Winnifred, Nevinjit Singh, Yeo Ying Hao (Yang Yinghao), Farhan Tyebally Tyebally (Gomez & Vasu LLC), Gill Amarick Singh(Amarick Gill LLC), Paul (Cross Street Chambers) andRamesh Chandr Tiwary (Ramesh Tiwary) for the applicant;

Kow Keng Siong, Lum Wen Yi DwayneandLu Yiwei(Attorney-General's Chambers) for the respondent.

30 March 2021

Sundaresh Menon CJ:

1 The applicant, Mr Amarjeet Singh (“Mr Singh”), filed a criminal motion seeking an order that I enforce a plea agreement that had allegedly been struck with the Prosecution. The criminal motion is a procedural device that is deployed in a variety of settings by parties invoking aspects of the criminal jurisdiction exercised by the court. However, it seemed to me that there had to be some limits that circumscribed the circumstances in which a matter could be said to have been properly brought by way of a criminal motion. This was so because I consider that the criminal motion is a procedural device by which the criminal jurisdiction of the court may be invoked, rather than being a source of such jurisdiction. That being the case, it would be necessary, at least in cases of doubt, to first establish a proper jurisdictional basis for the matter before the court instead of assuming this just because a criminal motion had been filed. This could be especially important because in some instances, the court's exercise of its jurisdiction may be controlled or circumscribed by certain preconditions such as the need to apply for leave. When I raised these concerns with Mr Singh's counsel, Mr Rakesh s/o Pokkan Vasu (“Mr Vasu”), it resulted in the application being withdrawn. As a consequence, I never reached the substantive questions raised by the application. Nonetheless, the application afforded me the opportunity to outline what I consider to be the appropriate jurisdictional contours of a criminal motion, an important subject which has not yet been explored in our jurisprudence.

Facts

2 On 10 April 2019, Mr Singh was arrested for using criminal force on Staff Sergeant Chong Guan Tao (“SSgt Chong”). SSgt Chong was allegedly pushed on...

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