SINGAPORE: A young man who defaulted on his National Service (NS) obligations for more than five years was jailed for 10 weeks on Thursday (Jun 20).
Indian national and Singapore permanent resident Thirumal Pavithran, 25, failed to register on time for NS and defaulted on NS obligations while completing his secondary and university education in India.
The total amount of time he spent outside Singapore was five years, seven months and 16 days.
Thirumal, who just finished serving NS last month, pleaded guilty to four charges under the Enlistment Act.
The court heard that he was born in India and became a permanent resident of Singapore in June 1997, when he was three years old.
He studied in primary and secondary schools in Singapore from 2001 to 2009, but left the country for India to continue his studies in May 2009.
In November 2010, Thirumal became subject to the Enlistment Act. A registration notice was sent to his address in Singapore when he turned 17 years old, informing him to register for full-time NS, but he did not do so.
Less than a year later, in September 2011, another reporting order was sent to his home, informing him to report for medical screening. He did not comply with this order either.
Later that month, Thirumal visited Singapore for about a week before returning to India, and a police gazette was issued against him two months later.
The next time Thirumal visited Singapore was about a year later, in October 2012. Within a week of entering the country, he was stopped by police and placed under arrest.
He then registered for NS and had a medical examination, which assessed him to be fit for enlistment into full-time NS.
An enlistment notice sent to his address in January 2013 instructed Thirumal to report at the Basic Military Training Centre on Mar 12, 2013.
HE WANTED TO DEFER NS
However, on the day of his enlistment, he called the Central Manpower Branch and said he wanted to apply for deferment of NS. He received an email reply that same day from the branch, asking for supporting documents for his application.
In emails to the branch, Thirumal said he was studying in India and would complete his studies in May 2013. After this, he would begin his university education in India in June 2013.
The Central Manpower Branch sent him an email emphasising that he was not eligible for deferment for his university studies and that he could defer his NS until May 31, 2013, for him to complete his secondary education in India.
Thirumal did not respond to the correspondence or to a new notice for enlistment as part of the June 2013 intake.
When the date for his enlistment rolled around on Jun 13, 2013, Thirumal did not report for NS. A fresh police gazette was issued.
He completed his university education in India in June 2016, returning to Singapore that same month and reporting to the Central Manpower Branch a month later. Thirumal enlisted into full-time NS and completed his full-time service in May this year.
The 25-year-old, who was unrepresented, told District Judge John Ng in mitigation that he thought he was only liable for NS from the age of 18.
"Ignorance of the law is no excuse," said the judge.
He said the issue of NS defaulters has been discussed at length in the courts, with sentences depending on the length of default, as well as whether the accused pleaded guilty, surrendered himself, or completed his NS.
The Ministry of Defence had said in a statement in May, when Thirumal was charged, that it takes a firm stand against those who commit offences under the Enlistment Act.
"All male Singapore citizens and permanent residents have a duty to serve NS," it said. "If we allow Singapore citizens or PRs who are overseas to evade NS or to choose when they want to serve NS, we are not being fair to the vast majority of our national servicemen who serve their country dutifully, and the institution of NS will be undermined.”
For failing to fulfil his liabilities under the Enlistment Act, Thirumal could have been jailed for up to three years, fined a maximum of S$10,000, or both.