Vellama d/o Marie Muthu v. Attorney-General
Vellama d/o Marie Muthu v. Attorney-General was a 2013 decision of the Court of Appeal of Singapore which held that Article 49(1) of the Constitution requires the Prime Minister to call a by-election when a casual vacancy arises in a Single Member Constituency (""SMC""), though the election need only be called within a reasonable time.The holding was an obiter dictum, that is, not required for the decision in the case and therefore not a binding precedent, though it may be persuasive in future cases. This was because the Court dismissed the appeal on the ground that the appellant, Madam Vellama, lacked standing. She had originally applied for judicial review in 2012 to ask the High Court to order the Prime Minister to call a by-election in Hougang Single Member Constituency following the expulsion of her Member of Parliament (MP) by his political party, the Workers' Party of Singapore. However, by the time the matter came on appeal, the 2012 by-election had been called and held. Therefore, she was arguably no longer directly affected by the lack of an MP in her constituency. Her only remaining interest was in having the Prime Minister correctly interpret Article 49(1) of the Constitution. This was a public right that she shared equally with all other citizens. Since she was unable to prove ""special damage"" – she was neither affected to a greater extent nor in a different manner from other citizens – she did not have standing to proceed with the appeal.Although the Court of Appeal rejected Vellama's appeal on the preliminary ground of a lack of standing, it went on to consider the substantive issues raised. Disagreeing with the High Court's judgment, the Court of Appeal interpreted Article 49(1) of the Constitution as providing that the Prime Minister does not have unfettered discretion in deciding whether or not to call a by-election when a casual vacancy in an SMC arises. Noting the absence in Article 49(1) of a specific time frame within which a parliamentary vacancy must be filled, the Court held that the Prime Minister must do so with ""all convenient speed"" in line with the common law concept of reasonable time. However, given the polycentric nature of the decision, the Court felt it was undesirable to lay down specific considerations or factors which would determine whether the Prime Minister had or had not called a by-election in reasonable time.