Court rules against golfer who sued club over suspension
Judge: No bias by Jurong club in suspension over driving range fracas. -ST
K. C. Vijayan, Senior Law Correspondent
Mon, Apr 22, 2013
The Straits Times
SINGAPORE - It all began with a scuffle at a driving range.
On Friday, Mr Ho Hoe Theng's lawsuit against his golf club landed well and truly in the rough, after a court ruled against him.
The 64-year-old (above) had his membership suspended in 2008 over a bust-up with another member, which led to both men accusing each other of assault.
He then sued Jurong Country Club, accusing it of breach of contract and claiming that its disciplinary committee was biased against him.
But on Friday, District Judge Loo Ngan Chor ruled that the club was not at fault, and ordered him to pay its legal costs.
Mr Ho's scuffle with fellow member Stanley Ang broke out on the driving range in December 2007.
A three-man disciplinary committee - which held four hearings and called several witnesses - found neither man had been sufficiently courteous.
It added that they had failed to refer their differences to the range operator, and acted in a way that could have alarmed others and potentially put people in danger.
The following February, the club suspended both of them for three months.
But Mr Ho went to court to try to have the move declared invalid, saying it went against the rules of natural justice.
He also wanted damages for the alleged wrongs.
The court hearings were spread out over seven days last year. Mr Ho testified with two other witnesses, while five people gave evidence for the club - including its then president, former Singapore presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock.
Mr Ho, who was represented by lawyer Adrian Wong, argued that the committee's verdict was inadequately reasoned and erroneous. One reason for this was that it allegedly showed bias.
The judge was not convinced, making clear that the court's job is not to rehear a case conducted by an internal tribunal or to provide the forum for an appeal against its decision.
"The court's role is simply to check that the process of the tribunal hearing... has been conducted fairly."
He added this was not a public law case, in which the court was being asked to review and set aside a decision by the committee because it had failed to observe the rules of natural justice.
Instead, his suit was about a breach of contract.
The judge found there was no basis for thinking that the committee's reasoning was inadequate or it had a "closed mind and had the appearance of bias".
He agreed with the club's lawyer Ramesh Selvaraj that "domestic tribunals are not bound by any established, standard or rigid procedures when they set about trying to ascertain the facts and to arrive at a proper outcome in their inquiries".
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