The High Court has explained that it dismissed a lawsuit against the SAF brought by the family of the late national serviceman Dominique Sarron Lee because it was “without reasonable prospect of success”.
The family of the 21-year-old private tried to sue the SAF for breach of contract of service and two of its officers for negligence after he suffered a fatal allergic reaction to fumes from smoke grenades used during a military exercise in 2012.
However, the case was thrown out in March.
Explaining the dismissal, Judicial Commissioner Kannan Ramesh said that on a provision in the Government Proceedings Act indemnifying them from being sued for negligence for deaths and injuries if the acts are certified to be attributable to service.
“I am entirely convinced that the SAF and all who command it fully recognise the weight of that burden and do their very best to sedulously discharge it. However, despite the best intentions and careful and meticulous planning, mistakes can and unfortunately sometimes do happen.”
JC Kannan stressed that the case also concerns the ability of the SAF and its officers to “safeguard our nation and her security” without being “burdened” by civil liability.
The judge noted that such an immunity has imposed on the SAF and its officers “an even heavier moral burden” to ensure the utmost care of its charges.
The SAF has said that the two officers had been found guilty of negligence in a summary trial in 2013, and they have been disciplined.
In July 2014, Captain Chia Thye Siong, the safety officer involved in the death of Pte Lee, was promoted to the rank of “Major”.