Deliberate online falsehoods Bill: More details revealed on process to challenge decisions

Deliberate online falsehoods Bill: More details revealed on process to challenge decisions

Law Minister K Shanmugam says the relevant minister must make a decision on whether to cancel his or her direction “no later than two days” after an application is received.

supreme court
The Supreme Court of Singapore.

SINGAPORE: A Government minister who issues a correction or take-down direction under the proposed Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill must respond to an application to cancel the direction no later than two days after the application is received, according to Law Minister K Shanmugam.

The minister, speaking in Parliament during the second reading of the Bill on Tuesday (May 7), said that the detailed procedure for challenging a minister’s decision will be spelled out in subsidiary legislation. 

This is expected to be filed later, after the primary legislation is passed.

READ: Proposed law on falsehoods has "clear oversight mechanism" to prevent abuse by Government, says Shanmugam

Mr Shanmugam reiterated that the process would be fast and simplified, and sketched out an overview in his speech.

For instance, a person contesting the decision must apply to the relevant minister to do so. A standard online form will be provided and the person should send it to the email address set out in the minister’s direction, he added.

Once received, the minister must make a decision no later than two working days.

Similarly, the appeal to the court would be fast and simple too.

The appeal must be filed no later than 14 working days after the minister decides on the application, and a simple standard form for the appellant to fill out and file in court will also be provided, Mr Shanmugam said.

The court will be asked to fix the hearing within six days if the appellant attends before the Duty Registrar to request for an expedited hearing in the manner prescribed by the rules of court. 

The documents will need to be served on the minister no later than the next day, and there will be an email address provided to make the process easy, he said.

The minister must then file his or her reply in court no later than three working days after the documents are served and the hearing will be heard no later than six days after the date on which the court received the application. 

In all, Mr Shanmugam said a person disputing the decision will have the opportunity to have the case heard in High Court as early as nine working days after initiating the challenge.

He did say that how long the hearing takes and when the decision will be made are matters for the court.

READ: Online Falsehoods Bill narrows, not widens, Government’s powers, Law ministry says

READ: Shanmugam addresses concerns over proposed online falsehoods and manipulation law

Costs, too, were factored in. The Law Minister said costs will be kept “very low” for individuals, with no court fees charged for the first three days before the usual rates kick in, but the Court will have the power to waive the fees, he added.

This direction for a fast, simple and relatively inexpensive process was brought up by Mr Shanmugam last month, when he said he would take a similar approach to the measures he introduced in the amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act.

The cost and time taken for the appeal process had been raised as a point of concern.

Source: CNA/kk(hs)