19 Sing. L. Rev. 10 (1998)
Equal Protection, Extra-Territoriality and Self-Incrimination

handle is hein.journals/singlrev19 and id is 14 raw text is: Singapore LawReview
(1998) 19 Sing LR 10-44
Tan Yock Lin
Arguably the most momentous case decided this year, the reference opinion
of the Court of Appeal in Taw Cheng Kong v PP1 has all the makings of a
leading pronouncement on equal protection of laws and the extra-territorial
competence of Parliament. Coming in the wake of the decision of the High
Court, in its appellatejurisdiction, that s 37(1) ofthe Prevention ofCorruption
Act2 was unconstitutionally violative ofequal protection of laws and in excess
of the legislative power,' its practical importance was ensured; since if the
Court of Appeal agreed in the decision of the High Court, the Constitution4
would stand in sore need of amelioration but, if conversely, the Constitution's
integrity would be proven to have been unassailable all along. Never tardy in
important matters, Parliament might indeed have responded instantly to the
decision in the High Court. But before Parliament should be burdened with
the necessity of constitutional reform, it seemed prudent that the Attorney
General should institute a reference for the opinion ofthe Court of Appeal in
order (1) that there should be a thorough ventilation of the two constitutional
questions raised before the High Court, clearly matters of great public
importance; and (2) that the shape of the necessary reform, if any, might be
guided by the judgement of the court as it would have been unfolded. In the
present view, the court's response was both swift and convincing in relieving
Parliament ofthe necessity of action altogether.
The nature ofthe first question which needed firmly to be resolved has an
intuitive appeal even to one unlearned in the law since no question is more
fundamental than whether equal protection of laws is violated. Here more
than anywhere else is engaged the fundamental conception of the rule of law
that Singapore will subscribe to. As will shortly appear, laws in their nature
must differentiate (ifthey did not, they would not be laws) and the propriety
Tan Yock Lin. BSc (Lond), Dip Econ Devt, BA, BCL (Oxon). is an Associate Professor.
Faculty ofLaw, National University ofSingapore.
I  [1998]2SLR410.
2  Cap 241. 1993 Rev Ed.
3  [1998] 1 SLR941.
4  The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, 1992 Reprint.

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