The top court was asked by the Government yesterday to consider referring part of a landmark battle over flag laws to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. Gerard McCoy, SC, for the Department of Justice, said a question had been drafted by the Government for consideration in Beijing if the Court of Final Appeal thought it right to refer the case. 'I am instructed to ask Your Lordships . . . whether you need to refer these issues for resolution,' said Mr McCoy. But Mr Justice Charles Ching doubted whether the issues raised by the Government for possible consideration in Beijing were ones which needed to be dealt with when deciding the case. 'To refer this question would make us look like a bunch of clowns. There is simply no question, as far as this present case is concerned, of that nature,' he said. Mr McCoy told the judges he was not urging them to refer the issues to the Standing Committee, only raising the question for their consideration. When deciding whether a referral was needed, the court should take into account the reinterpretation of the Basic Law by the Standing Committee in June as well as principles laid down in its own landmark abode ruling, Mr McCoy said. The question involved interpretation of parts of the Basic Law which states that certain mainland legislation, including the national flag law, must be applied to Hong Kong. Concern was raised by the court over an argument put forward by the Government that laws applying this mainland legislation cannot be held to be unconstitutional by the courts. Mr Justice Henry Litton suggested this could mean judges were powerless to interfere if a law were passed which imposed a penalty of chopping off an offender's hand for waving a desecrated flag. Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang said it could prevent the courts ruling that a law which abolished the presumption of innocence was unconstitutional. Mr McCoy responded: 'It would be repugnant to any concept of justice if a law can be enacted that was so abominable in its content that it offended all that we stand for in Hong Kong.' He said the Government's position was that there was not an absolute restriction on challenging the laws concerned on the basis they breached the Basic Law. The court should try to harmonise the compulsory application of mainland legislation with other parts of the Basic Law, Mr McCoy said. The Government is seeking to overturn a Court of Appeal ruling in March which held laws making it a criminal offence to desecrate the national or SAR flags to be unconstitutional. The court will rule later on whether to refer the question. The case continues today.