Lift the Ban on Thaipusam Music

Lift the Ban on Thaipusam Music

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Timeline – Ban on Thaipusam Music

A Ban on the use of musical instruments was imposed in 1973. Singapore is the only country in the world that bans the use of musical instruments at Thaipusam. 

Thaipusam falls under the authority of The Hindu Endowment Board (HEB) . This is a statutory board under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY). According to HEB, they had brought up the issue to the police licensing board on several occasions since 1973 but to no avail.
The issue was also brought up in Parliament seating’s but to no avail.

3rd Feb 2015 -Three men were arrested   during Thaipusam 2015 and have claimed innocence.
Source: Singapore Police Force - FB post

4th Feb 2015 - A Facebook page published by Voice of One  to 'Speak Up For Thaipusam' has garnered close to 9,000 Likes.

5th Feb 2015 - Ms Sangeetha Thanapal publishes: Thaipusam & the right to cultural and religious expression in Singapore. Click here to read.

Ms Sangeetha also starts a petition calling for the re-instatement of Thaipusam as a public holiday. It has garnered more than 20,000 signatures.

6th Feb 2015 - Law Minister Shanmugam gives his take on the rules behind the ban on musical instruments, saying Hindus in Singapore are in a 'privileged' position.

7th Feb 2015 - Oddly enough, there is no mention about the Thaipusam incident on HEB's  website : although there is a statement by Mr R Jayachandran, Chairman of HEB on their Facebook

9th Feb 2015
- The Online Citizen publishes an article by Arriffin Sha :'Now can we have our holiday back ?

10th Feb 2015 - Ms R Angelina, represented by Lawyer Mr Ravi, filed an application challenging the constitutionality of guidelines prohibiting the use of musical instruments at Thaipusam procession. In response to media queries, the Attorney-General’s Chambers said it has filed an application to strike out her case “on the grounds that it discloses no reasonable cause of action, is scandalous, frivolous and vexatious, and is an abuse of process”.

11th Feb 2015 - Law Minister Shanmugam seems
to soften stand (Apparently Main Stream Media Channel News Asia has removed the post): Hindu Endowments Board should find out the wishes of the people.

11th Feb 2015 - Warning by AG (Again Main Stream Media Channel News Asia has removed the post) ....The day free speech which is enshrined in our Constitution under Article 14 was lost in our country...

13th Feb 2015 - Gilbert Goh's application to hold a peaceful protest at Speakers Corner was rejected by the Police.

24th Feb 2015 - Martyn See's Open Letter to PAP MP Lam Pin Min over Thaipusam Incident. Full article here 

26th Feb 2015 - Martyn See files a police report on PAP MP Lam Pin Min over the Thaipusam incident. The Straits Times carries the story.

29th April 2015 - Lawyer Mr Eugene Thuraisingam of Eugene Thuraisingam LLP serves an Originating Summons (Case No.: HC/OS 394/2015) in court on the Attorney General, on behalf of 3 Singaporeans applicants, Mr Sathiyamoorthy s/o Murugiah, Mr Vijaya Kumar s/o Rajendran & Mr Balasubramaniam 

20th May 2015 - Lawyer Mr Eugene Thuraisingam and state counsels from the Attorney General's Chambers attended before an Assistant Registrar for a pre-trial conference (PTC). The state counsel indicated that they needed more time to put in affidavits on behalf of the Government, given the serious nature of this judicial review application.

1st July 2015 -  Affidavit filed by the Attorney-General (giving intention to pursue the matter in High Court) 
8th July 2015 - Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam and the AGC attended before the Assistant Registrar for a further Pre-Trial Conference today.  As affidavits have been filed, the Assistant Registrar has directed that fixed this matter for hearing before a High Court Judge on 14 August 2015.

18th Aug 2015 - The 3 men are in the process of considering their options in response to the High Court's instruction to place a security deposit of $20,000 if they want to appeal the case. Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam pays the $20,000 security deposit out of his own pocket  
13th Sept 2015 - The 3 men, led by Sathiyamoorthy have proceeded with crowd funding to fund their case in the high court. Visit the crowd funding site.
20th Sept 2015 - The case was highlighted in mainstream media the Sunday Times yesterday (20th Sept 2015) by Senior Law Correspondent, Mr K C Vijayan. The story was also carried by several other online news sites, including the Singapore Law Watch.

Email received from Eugene Thuraisingam's office to the 3 men who filed the appeal against the ban on playing drums during Thaipusam.

RE: Originating Summons (High Court Case No.: HC/OS 394/2015) – Hearing on 14th August 2015.

Dear all,

We ( Lawyers from Eugene Thuraisingam ) attended before the High Court Judge, Justice Tay Yong Kwang, for the hearing of your applications for permission to proceed with judicial review of the Police’s conditions that the playing of music during the Thaipusam procession be significantly restricted.

During oral argument, we supplemented the written submissions that we had sent you previously with further points, and addressed the Judge’s questions and AGC’s points.

The Judge accepted our position that all three of you, including Sathiya, have legal standing to make a judicial review application. He accepted that it is not necessary for a member of the Hindu community to actively participate in the Thaipusam procession in order to have standing to make a judicial review application.

The Judge also accepted your and the Expert’s position that the playing of music is an integral part of the Thaipusam religious experience, and that your freedom to take part in the Thaipusam procession accompanied by music forms part of your Constitutional right to practice religion that is protected by Art 15(1) of the Constitution.

The Judge however took the view that it is clear that the music restrictions constitute a lawful exercise by the Government of their power under Art 15(4) of the Constitution to make restrictions on persons’ religious liberty, for the purpose of maintaining public order.

In the circumstances, the Judge dismissed your applications for permission.

Although we challenged the AGC’s application that costs should be awarded against you on the basis that this is a public interest litigation and you do not have a private interest in the outcome of this case, the Court nevertheless ordered SGD 6,000 + disbursements of SGD 1923.80 against the three of you jointly and severally. Costs are normally awarded to parties who lose in a case.

You have one month (i.e. by 11 September 2015) to decide if you wish to appeal the Judge’s decision to refuse you permission, to the Court of Appeal. If you wish to do so, you will need to provide SGD 20,000 upfront as security of costs. Such security of costs is a rule imposed by the Court to ensure that, if the respondent to the appeal (ie the AGC in this case) succeeds in defending the High Court judge’s judgment, it will be compensated for the costs it incurred in defending your appeal.

As we had informed you earlier this year, it is difficult to win in judicial review applications. However, if you wish to proceed with the appeal, we have no problems acting for you, as we did in your High Court case.

Please do not hesitate to contact / arrange an appointment with us if you require any clarifications on the above and the case moving forward.


Suang Wijaya
Practice Trainee | Eugene Thuraisingam LLP
T +65 6557 2436 | F +65 6557 2437 |
1 Coleman Street, #07-06, The Adelphi, Singapore 179803  |

Friday, 28 August 2015

Crowd Funding Campaign


Thank you for your interest in this crowd funding effort . We are raising funds for a judicial review in the High Court to lift the ban on playing musical instruments during Thaipusam foot processions. The ban (  in existence since 1973) restricts the Hindu community in practicing their traditions, cultural beliefs & religious rights.

On the 29th April, Mr Eugene of Eugene Thuraisingam LLP  served  an Ex Parte Originating Summons   ( Case No.: HC/OS 394/2015 ) in the high court of the Republic of Singapore  on the Attorney General, on  behalf of 3 Singaporean applicants :  Mr Balasubramaniam , Mr Sathiyamoorthy s/o Murugiah & Mr Vijaya Kumar s/o Rajendran. Mr Eugene is fighting this case pro bono which means he is not charging the 3 men for his services. You can follow the sequence of events leading to the present court status  at this  Timeline.

The three gentleman who are all Hindus, are seeking for the ban of musical instruments by the SPF to be lifted during Thaipusam processions. The court has ordered that the three men have the right to practice Freedom of Religion but dismissed the case on the ground of Public Order Act of the Singapore constitution article 15 (4) which do not authorize any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality.

Mr Eugene has filed an appeal and placed a security deposit of $20,000 out of his own pocket. Now that the High Court Judge has released his grounds of decision, we await directions from the Court of Appeal on when to file  written arguments for the Court of Appeal.  Once the  written arguments are filed and the AGC file their response, the Court of Appeal will fix the matter for an oral hearing before them. We will keep you informed once we get the dates of the trial .

What can you do to help?

Donate. We need to raise a total of $30,000 hopefully within 60 days  or until the targeted amount is reached. The breakdown of the costs involved so far is as follows:

Invoice 1: S$928 (Disbursements incurred in filing Court papers in the High Court)

Invoice 2: S$2910.95 (Disbursements incurred in obtaining an expert opinion from an overseas expert witness)

Court charges 1: S$6,000 (Legal Costs awarded to the Government for the unsuccessful High Court application)

Court charges 2: $ S1, 923.80 (Disbursements awarded to the Government for the unsuccessful High Court application)

Current total charges: S$11, 762.75

Share . Besides donating in cash, you  can also assist  by sharing this crowd funding page to others. Send an email to your friends, or share this on your social media platforms!You may also want to consider consolidating funds from their family members and  friends in order to meet our target .

There are no perks or rewards as this campaign is non-profitable. A"Thank You', note together with an acknowledgement of your contribution will be sent by email. You can also print a copy of your contribution for reference .

Why Support Us

I'm  ( Sathiyamoorthy ) founder and administrator of Voices of Singaporeans Indians (FB community page). As a patriotic son of Singapore, I believe that unjust practices should be addressed.

Hinduism is an ancient religion. Dance, music and songs have been in existence since the Vedic period 1750-500BCE. It is a religious rite past down from generation to generation from our forefathers. While our government has made efforts in  preserving the culture of our forefathers, is seems that we are marginalized in their decision making.  It’s very saddening  that we, Singaporeans Hindus are deprived and discriminated in practicing our religion and our festival as it used to be in the olden days. I am typing these words with tears flowing down my eyes. What kind of future do we want to leave for our children? One that is authentic? Or one that carries the shadow of meaning?

We are just ordinary people fighting this case on behalf of the Hindu community. We don’t want to pass down a watered down version of our religious rites, practices and culture to the next generation. We want our children and grandchildren to know how Thaipusam as is really celebrated around the world. We are working together to establish a better and authentic future for our children and our community

Terms and Conditions

1) Personal data & information would be protected in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Act;

2) The collected funds are on a voluntary basis;

3) The funds are collected for the purpose of financing the legal, administrative and/or other cost related to the case;

4) All collected funds are non-refundable;

5) All collected funds would be audited;

6) After all expenses are paid, the balance funds (if any) would be distributed evenly in the form of donation to 4 charitable organizations:  List of voluntary welfare organisations in Singapore

Payment Mode

Payment mode: Anyone who has a PayPal account, American Express Credit Card, VISA, MasterCard Credit Card or debit card can make a contribution.