X Pte Ltd and Another v CDE

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeJudith Prakash JC
Judgment Date28 August 1992
Neutral Citation[1992] SGHC 229
Citation[1992] SGHC 229
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberSuit No 2502 of 1991
Plaintiff CounselWinston Chen (Winston Chen & Co)
Defendant CounselDefendant in person
Date28 August 1992
subjectMatterPrinciples of American Cyanamid applied,Application to discharge,Application to discharge interim injunction,Civil Procedure,Whether art 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore had effect of overriding common law of confidence and tort of conspiracy to injure,Grounds for claim,Whether there was serious question to be tried and whether damages would be adequate remedy,Interlocutory injunction,Injunctions,Conspiracy,Conspiracy to injure,Equitable obligation of confidence,arts 14(1), (2) & 162 Constitution of the Republic of Singapore,Elements to be satisfied to succeed in action for breach where no contract involved,Confidence,Freedom of speech,Constitutional Law,Fundamental liberties,Principles governing court's determination whether to grant injunction for conspiracy to injure,Tort,Whether these two restrictions are preserved by the Constitution,Whether there was breach

Cur Adv Vult

The legal issue addressed in this judgment is in what circumstances an individual`s right to `kiss and tell` can be curtailed (at least on an interlocutory application). It arises from the defendant`s application for the discharge of interim injunction orders which the plaintiffs obtained against her on 5 December 1991.

Three injunctions were issued against the defendant. She was restrained, until further order, whether by herself, her servants or agents or otherwise howsoever:

(1) from making use of or disclosing whether directly or indirectly to anyone (other than to the relevant authorities, her solicitors and this court) any information howsoever acquired by her, during her period of employment with the first plaintiffs, on the personal affairs of the second plaintiff including his amorous relationship with any woman including the defendant;

(2) from making use of or disclosing whether directly or indirectly (other than to the relevant authorities and her solicitors) or delivering to any newspaper or periodical within Singapore or otherwise copies of any pleadings and affidavits filed in these proceedings or filed in any other proceedings which may be commenced by the defendant against the plaintiffs or either of them; and

(3) (other than by or through the defendant`s solicitors) from communicating with the second plaintiff whether by telephone or letter or any other means of communication.

When the defendant`s application first came up before me on 8 June 1992, I varied the first injunction order so as to allow the defendant to consult with any of three named pastors and her psychiatrist provided that she notified them in advance of the existence of the injunction. I also decided that as the defendant was not legally represented and the first injunction involved complex questions of law, an amicus curiae should be appointed to enable the legal issues to be fully addressed at an adjourned hearing of the application. Mr Kenneth Tan kindly accepted appointment as amicus curiae .

First, a brief account of the facts.

Factual background

In April 1989, the defendant was employed as a secretary by the first plaintiffs (`the company`), the Singapore incorporated subsidiary of a foreign corporation. In October 1989, she was transferred to a different division of the company as the secretary of the managing director of that division. When the second plaintiff (`AB`) was seconded to the company by its foreign parent in July 1990, the defendant became his secretary. The defendant left the company`s employ at the end of March 1991.

It is common ground that shortly after AB came to Singapore there was a sexual relationship between him and the defendant. This relationship ended in December 1990. The defendant`s contention is that the sexual intimacy between them arose because of harassment on the part of AB as her superior and her belief that if she did not submit to his advances she would lose the job which she enjoyed and on which she depended for her living. She further says that she was forced to resign from her job by AB. AB`s position is that there was no question of any harassment or the exertion of undue pressure on his part: both her intimacy with him and her resignation were completely voluntary actions of the defendant.

What happened from mid-March 1991 to December 1991 has been set out in lengthy affidavits filed by both AB and the defendant. There are numerous exhibits. To summarize:

(1) Between 25 March 1991 and 14 November 1991, the defendant wrote some 20 letters and notes to AB. She also telephoned him frequently, attempted to see him on several occasions and did in fact meet with him a few times. On one occasion, in late September 1991, they spent the night together at a hotel. The letters were initially couched in affectionate terms. The defendant`s aim in writing the early letters seems to have been to get her job back. Later, when she did not receive a satisfactory response, many of the letters were explicitly threatening and written in intemperate language, although some of them simply expressed the defendant`s pain and distress at the situation she was in. She continually pressed AB for an explanation of his conduct towards her and gave him several time limits within which to respond.

(2) Sometime towards the end of April 1991, the defendant lodged a report with the police, alleging that AB had raped her. Subsequently in September 1991, she made a further report that he had assaulted her indecently.

(3) Between 2 May 1991 and 27 October 1991 the defendant wrote some five letters to various officers in the foreign parent of the company. In the first of these letters, dated 2 May 1991, she stated that she had been the subject of victimization and asked for a personal meeting to express her grievances. She notified the recipient of the letter that she had already lodged a report with the police and her further action, if necessary, would be to:

(a) report to the president and chairman of the parent company;

(b) make known her grievances to as many people in the parent company as possible;

(c) inform its customers what type of person AB was;

(d) proceed with legal action and publicize the matter in the press.

In another letter dated 5 August 1991 addressed to the chairman of the parent company, the defendant made various allegations against AB. She repeated her contention that he had abused her, gave details of AB`s relationship with another woman (`IS`), and accused him of having cheated the company in regard to expenses which he had claimed from the company. In a further letter to the same person in October 1991, the defendant complained that her letter of 5 August had been ignored. She stated that she had been left with no alternative but to turn to the public for attention and that she had given her story to the press. She said that she would follow up with legal action and she would ensure that the name of the company would be `badly shaken once this urgly (sic) news is out in the public`.

(4) The defendant wrote several letters to AB`s wife who was residing in her home country and had only spent a few weeks in Singapore after AB`s posting here. In the first letter (15 March 1991), she notified Mrs AB that AB was having an affair with another woman. Subsequently, by a letter dated 20 July 1991, the defendant identified IS and gave Mrs AB further details about her. She also described her own relationship with AB as being `deep and complicated` which words, the defendant believed, would be sufficient to indicate to Mrs AB that she herself had been intimate with AB. In the letter the defendant said that from checking bills of AB and making inquiries, she had ascertained that AB had taken IS on a holiday to Phuket in February 1991; that AB had bought IS expensive gifts; that he spent a lot of money on telephoning IS every month at her foreign home; and that IS had spent time in Singapore with AB in August 1990 and February 1991. Finally, in a letter dated 12 August 1991 but sent out some weeks later, she gave Mrs AB explicit details of the liaison between herself and AB and repeated her stories regarding IS and AB.

(5) On 11 May 1991, AB received an anonymous letter from a person subscribing himself as `angry friend`. In this letter AB was accused of having cheated the defendant of money, having cheated the company, having sexually harassed the defendant and having wrongly dismissed the defendant. The writer announced that if he were able to get certain documents from the defendant, he would send them to all the staff in the company and its head office to make sure that AB`s name was blackened. The letter ended with `You better call [the defendant] and check with her needs or see what can you do, or else I`ll going to give you hell. You better watch out.`

(6) In October 1991, the defendant spoke to some newspaper reporters and told them her story, as a result of which an article entitled `Sex row` was published. No names were given. The article detailed the course of the relationship between the defendant and AB from the defendant`s viewpoint. The paper contacted AB but he refused to make any comment. At the end of the article, the defendant was quoted as having said: `I`m so angry, I want to get him.`

(7) On 28 November 1991, AB received a second anonymous letter. This one enclosed a draft letter which was stated as being ready to be sent to thousands of people including AB`s family, his superiors, all the staff of the company and its parent, their business contacts, the Singapore Immigration, a named embassy and clubs and others. The proposed circular letter was written in the most intemperate and virulent language. It gave details of AB`s alleged mistreatment of the defendant; his relationship with IS; and his alleged cheating of the company. Also disclosed were AB`s personal addresses at home and abroad, his office address in Singapore and the address of the foreign parent company.

As the plaintiffs` counsel has pointed out, some of the documents referred to above and exhibited to AB`s first affidavit in these proceedings revealed the following:

(1) that the defendant had made copies of AB`s personal phone bills, of at least one of his departmental store bills and of his claim for reimbursement from the company of certain expenses;

(2) that the defendant had kept a record of a holiday trip to Phuket which AB had taken with IS in February 1991;

(3) that the defendant had kept a record of personal calls meant for AB in November 1990.

The plaintiffs` claim

On 4 December 1991, the plaintiffs responded to the various actions of the defendant by filing the suit herein and making an application for an ex parte interim injunction. By the statement of claim indorsed on the writ, the plaintiffs claimed various reliefs against the defendant, including:

(a) a declaration that...

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