The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), run by the opposition Workers’ Party, was on Friday (Nov 28) found guilty of holding a festive trade fair, without permit, earlier this year.
At the heart of the case, is whether the town council, flouted Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act, by holding a Chinese New Year fair, without a permit. The National Environment Agency, prosecuting the case, said it did.
The town council, represented by lawyer Peter Low, challenged the charge. Among the defence was the argument that the event was simply a “mini-fair” which does not require a permit. It also took issue with the need to get a letter of support to organise the fair, from the area’s Citizens’ Consultative Committee, which is chaired by a People’s Action Party grassroots leader.
The judge ruled on Friday that since Section 35 of the Act created a strict liability offence, this means prosecution does not need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that AHPETC deliberately did not intend to obtain a permit to hold its fair.
As for the defence’s argument that AHPETC can hold events without a permit in common areas that it manages, the judge said it seems the town council’s objection was related to the suitability of the application form and not the fact that a permit was required. He said the court is not an appropriate forum to examine conditions tied to the permit application form.
Commenting on the decision, AHPETC Vice Chairman Pritam Singh said: “We’re disappointed with the verdict. We will take advice from our lawyers as to the next course of action going forward. We won’t rule anything out.”
He added that no town council funds were used with respect to this case, saying: “The MPs are contributing to the lawyers’ fees.”
The court was adjourned until Dec 24 for mitigation and sentencing.