Ex-law prof fails in bid to challenge NUS

Ex-law prof fails in bid to challenge NUS

Former law professor Tey Tsun Hang has failed in his bid to launch court proceedings to challenge his sacking from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2013.

High Court judge Quentin Loh yesterday refused to grant the 43-year-old permission to start judicial review proceedings seeking to quash NUS' decisions to suspend, and later fire, him.

The judge also highlighted how Mr Tey wasted the court's time and resources in his attempted challenge.

Mr Tey was suspended with full pay on July 27, 2012 after he was charged with corruptly accepting gifts and sex from a student. He was sacked on May 28, 2013, the day he was convicted.

Mr Tey, a Malaysian, was eventually acquitted in February last year on appeal to the High Court.

Last June, he applied for permission to start judicial review proceedings against the decisions of NUS to suspend and sack him.

Yesterday, Justice Loh ruled that the suspension and sacking were not subject to judicial review, a procedure in which the courts are asked to evaluate the decisions of public bodies.

The judge said that NUS' power to suspend and sack Mr Tey came not from written law, but from the employment agreement between them.

The decisions did not involve NUS exercising any public law function, said Justice Loh, accepting the arguments of NUS' lawyer, Senior Counsel Cavinder Bull, that it was a purely contractual matter between an employer and an employee.

The judge also noted that a person should exhaust all other avenues before seeking judicial review.

But Mr Tey failed to pursue alternative remedies, such as telling NUS that he wanted to be reinstated or suing the university for breaching the employment contract.

The judge also chided Mr Tey for the "cavalier" way in which he conducted the case.

In his 24-page written judgment, Justice Loh detailed the "unsatisfactory conduct" of Mr Tey - an Oxford graduate and former district judge - throughout the current proceedings.

Among other things, Mr Tey had sent written submissions to the judge's personal e-mail address instead of filing them in the court's electronic system as required under the rules.

Mr Tey had also e-mailed the Chief Justice and the Attorney-General, contending that Justice Loh should disqualify himself from hearing his case.

His reason was that Justice Loh had, in 2012, failed to produce a written judgment for dismissing an application relating to Mr Tey's criminal case.

But these grounds were untrue, said Justice Loh, adding that Mr Tey "must have forgotten" what transpired then.

Justice Loh said he had read out his decision in open court and told counsel that they could get written copies from his secretary.

He also noted that Mr Tey had failed to tell Mr M. Ravi about the e-mail calling for his disqualification, resulting in the lawyer being "taken aback" at the hearing when told about it.

"It is indeed sad that someone with Tey's legal background should put forward grounds for a judge's recusal which have no factual truth or legal basis," he said in his judgment.

"The least he could have done was to check his facts and the law before making these grave allegations."

selinal@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 16, 2015.
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