Landmark Case Analysis: Kottakki Srinivas Patnaik v Attorney-General [2024] SGCA 5

Landmark Case Analysis: Kottakki Srinivas Patnaik v Attorney-General [2024] SGCA 5


The case of Kottakki Srinivas Patnaik v Attorney-General [2024] SGCA 5 presents critical insights into the interplay between prosecutorial discretion and constitutional rights within the Singapore legal framework. This analysis aims to highlight the significant aspects of the Court of Appeal’s decision, which holds paramount implications for administrative law, constitutional law, and the judicial review process.

The Material Facts

Mr. Kottakki Srinivas Patnaik (“Mr. Patnaik”) faced criminal proceedings on charges of corruption as a bribe-giver in a private sector corruption scheme between 2011 and 2016. The charges included five counts of corruptly giving gratification to Harish Singhal (“Mr. Singhal”) and one count of conspiring to disguise the proceeds of criminal conduct. The scheme involved Mr. Patnaik, through Neptune Ship Management Pte Ltd (“Neptune”), paying kickbacks to Mr. Singhal to secure contracts at inflated prices for Neptune from MODEC Offshore Production Systems (Singapore) Pte Ltd (“MOPS”).

Procedural History

On 10 February 2023, Mr. Patnaik commenced judicial review proceedings in the General Division of the High Court (GDHC), seeking to halt the criminal charges against him, asserting violations of Articles 12(1) and 35(8) of the Singapore Constitution. The GDHC dismissed his application, leading to this appeal.

Key Issues on Appeal

The appeal centered on three main issues:

  1. Whether the GDHC erred in finding no prima facie case of a reasonable suspicion that Article 12(1) of the Constitution was breached.
  2. Whether the GDHC erred in finding no prima facie case of a reasonable suspicion that the charges were unlawful and/or irrational.
  3. Whether the GDHC erred in finding that Article 35(8) of the Constitution was not breached.

Court of Appeal’s Findings

Article 12(1) – Equal Protection of the Law

The court emphasized that prosecutorial discretion, while constitutionally protected, is not immune from judicial review. A prima facie case of unequal treatment under Article 12(1) requires demonstrating that similarly situated individuals were treated differently without a reasonable basis.

  1. Lack of Like Situations: Mr. Patnaik failed to show that others similarly situated as bribe-givers were not prosecuted. The individuals he cited, such as Mr. Parthiban and others, were intermediaries, not primary bribe-givers, distinguishing their roles from his.
  2. Differentiation Justified: The differentiation in charges against different parties involved in the corruption scheme was found to be based on relevant considerations, such as roles and evidence, without indicating arbitrary or improper discretion.

Article 35(8) – Prosecutorial Discretion

The court reaffirmed that challenges to prosecutorial discretion must be substantiated by evidence of arbitrariness, improper purpose, or bad faith. Mr. Patnaik’s assertions were found to be unsubstantiated, as he did not demonstrate any improper exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

  1. Evidence Requirement: The court highlighted that the sufficiency of evidence to prove charges beyond reasonable doubt is a matter for trial, not for judicial review proceedings.
  2. Selective Prosecution Argument: The court rejected the argument that selective prosecution hindered the truth or assessment of culpability, noting that non-prosecution of certain parties does not preclude their participation in fact-finding at trial.

Article 35(8) – Investigation of MOPS Contract Manager

Mr. Patnaik introduced a new argument on appeal regarding the non-investigation of the MOPS Contract Manager as a breach of Article 35(8). The court dismissed this as procedurally improper and lacking substantive explanation.


The Court of Appeal dismissed Mr. Patnaik’s appeal, reaffirming the principles of prosecutorial discretion and the high threshold for judicial intervention in such matters. This decision underscores the judiciary’s deference to prosecutorial decisions absent compelling evidence of constitutional breaches and the importance of addressing evidentiary concerns within the appropriate trial context.

Implications for Legal Practice

  1. High Threshold for Judicial Review: Legal practitioners must recognize the stringent requirements for challenging prosecutorial discretion and the need for substantial evidence to support claims of constitutional breaches.
  2. Role Differentiation in Corruption Cases: In corruption cases, distinguishing the roles of various parties is crucial in determining the appropriateness of charges and defending against allegations of selective prosecution.
  3. Strategic Considerations in Appeals: Introducing new arguments on appeal without prior consideration by lower courts can be procedurally improper and substantively weak, highlighting the importance of thorough preparation at all litigation stages.

By understanding these aspects, all can better navigate the complexities of constitutional law and prosecutorial discretion in Singapore’s legal landscape.


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