To sue or not to sue?

Has The Strait Times settled the debate on six-month log saga of whether "public bodies" can sue citizens in Singapore 


"In all, public bodies ought to be able to sue citizens. But so that good-faith criticism is not thereby discouraged, they should only be able to ask for retractions, corrections and apologies, not damages, unless they suffer clearly verifiable financial losses," wrote Andy Ho, senior writer at The Strait Times in his newspaper today. [Can a public body sue for defamation]

It all started in April, when Council of Private Education (CPE) sent a letter of demand to Han Hui Hui, a 21-year-old girl, asking her to apologise for past allegedly defamatory statements and refrain from making further such statements, or else face legal action.

Instead of complying, Han went to courts to declare that a public body was not entitled to sue a citizen, as per the Derbyshire principle widely accepted in other common law countries, and called it a "landmark case to protect Singaporeans from defamation lawsuits by public bodies".

But early this month, rather inexplicably, both parties dropped all legal proceedings against each other leaving the issue raised by the "landmark case" in a limbo.  

CPE, on its website describes itself as, "Established under the Private Education Act, the Council for Private Education (CPE) is a statutory board sanctioned with the legislative power to regulate the private education sector.  In addition to its role as the sectoral regulator of private education institutions (PEIs), the CPE facilitates capability development efforts to uplift standards in the local private education industry. "