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Court of Appeal asks parties in AHTC case to address issues concerning fiduciary duties

The court is asking the parties to address the issue of whether it is the intent of Parliament for town councillors or employees of town councils “to owe fiduciary duties when performing their statutory functions”

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Singapore—The Court of Appeal has asked the lawyers in the AHTC case to address specific issues related to an upcoming hearing.

Lawyers for the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) and Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) as well as those representing members of the Workers’ Party (WP) were given questions through a letter last week after the Court of Appeal had gone over papers and submissions for the next hearing.

The appeals court hearing is scheduled for later in the year.

The court is asking the different sides to address the issue of whether it is the intent of Parliament for town councillors or employees of town councils “to owe fiduciary duties when performing their statutory functions,” the straitstimes.com (ST) reports, among other issues.

The issue concerning fiduciary duties is related to private law, which is between people or institutions, and public law, which is between people or institutions and the government. Fiduciary duties involve private law.

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Last year, the High Court found that the first to seventh defendants in the case owed fiduciary duties, an issue that the Court of Appeal wishes for the parties to address.

According to the judgment from the High Court in October of last year, Mr Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim, the former WP chief and current party chair respectively, as then-town councillors of AHTC, breached their fiduciary duties to the town council.

WP head Mr Pritam Singh, two other AHTC town councillors, the owners of the town council’s former managing agent company are also defendants in the case.

The defendants filed an appeal concerning the High Court judgment.

At the same time, PRPTC also filed a lawsuit against Ms Lim, Mr Low and six other defendants due to reported losses from the time that the WP had purview over Punggol East.

ST published some of the questions that the Court of Appeal asked the parties, which include:

“Is there any evidence that Parliament intended for town councillors and employees of town councils to owe fiduciary duties in the execution of their statutory functions?

“Taking into account the existing regimes that regulate town councils and town councillors, what role does fiduciary law play in this specific context?”

In related news, last month the High Court released an oral judgment on the case of Mr Pritam and four other individuals against the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) disallowing new claims against some of the defendants.

Justice Kannan Ramesh dismissed parts of an application made by AHTC, noting the request for amendments were made after he had delivered his verdict in October 2019.

One of the rejected claims was a statement that Mr Pritam and then-AHTC councillors Mr Chua Zhi Hon and Mr Kenneth Foo Seck Guan had breached their duty of care and skill as fiduciaries and or duties of care and skill to AHTC.

Another was a claim stating that the defendants “had the means and knowledge of and knew or ought to have known” about certain facts under their position as elected or appointed members of AHTC, which would “have awakened suspicion and put a prudent man on his guard”. —/TISG

Read also: Oral judgment passed on AHTC trial, new claims disallowed for Pritam Singh and two others

Oral judgment passed on AHTC trial, new claims disallowed for Pritam Singh and two others

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