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The Singapore Legal System

Background and Constitution

The name Singapura comes from the Sanskrit singha ("lion") and pura ("city"). According to
the Malay Annals, this name was given by a 14th century Sumatran prince named Sang Nila
Utama, who, having landed on the island after a thunderstorm, spotted an auspicious beast on
the shore. His chief minister erroneously identified this creature as a 'singha', or lion. With
the first recorded settlement dating back to the 2nd century AD, the island was an outpost of
the Sumatran Srivijaya empire and originally had the Javanese name Temasek ('sea town'). In
the third century, a Chinese account gave reference to Singapore as Pu-luo-chung, or "island
at the end of a peninsula". Temasek (Tumasek) rapidly became a significant trading
settlement, but declined in the late 14th century. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries,
Singapore island was part of the Sultanate of Johor. During the Malay-Portugal wars in 1613,
the settlement was set ablaze by Portuguese troops. The Portuguese subsequently held control
in that century and the Dutch in the 17th, but throughout most of this time, the island's
population consisted mainly of fishermen.

Modern day Singapore was founded in 1918 by the British. In extending their dominion over
India and increasing trade with China in the second half of the 18th century, the British saw a
need for a port of call in the South-East Asia region. Sir Stamford Raffles, Lieutenant
Governor of Bencoolen establish a trading station upon landing on 29 January 1819; on 6
February 1819, he concluded a formal treaty with Sultan Hussein of Johor and the
Temenggong, the de jure and defacto rulers of Singapore respectively.

In 1824, Singapore's status as a British possession was formalized by two new treaties. The
first was the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of March 1824, by which the Dutch withdrew all
objections to the British occupation of Singapore. The second treaty was made with Sultan
Hussein and Temenggong Abdu'r Rahman in August,by which the two owners ceded the
island out right to the British in return for increased cash payments and pensions.

The Straits Settlements and Japanese Occupation

Singapore, together with Malacca and Penang, the two British settlements in the Malay
Peninsula, became the Straits Settlements in 1826, under the control of British India. As a
result, British common law applied to Singapore as it did in India, especially the Penal Code
which was imported from the penal laws applicable to Indiaduring that time.
By 1832, Singapore had become the centre of government for the three areas. On 1 April
1867, the Straits Settlements became a Crown Colony under the jurisdiction of the Colonial
Office in London.

During the ensuing decades, Singapore prospered as a trading post and as the major strategic
naval station in the Far East of the British. This was interrupted when Singapore fell to the
Japanese on 15 February 1942, and was renamed Syonan (Light of the South).It remained
under Japanese occupation for the next three and a half years. Japanese law applied during
this time.

Towards Self-Government - Birth of the Constitution

The British forces returned in September 1945 and Singapore came under the British Military
Administration. When the period of military administration ended in March 1946, the Straits
Settlements was dissolved. On 1 April 1946, Singapore became a Crown Colony with a new
Colonial Constitution. Constitutional powers were initially vested in the Governor who had
an advisory council of officials and nominated non-officials. This evolved into the separate
Executive and Legislative Councils in July 1947. The Governor retained firm control over the
colony but there was provision for the election of six members to the Legislative Council by
popular vote. Hence, Singapore's first election was held on 20 March 1948.

When the Communist Party of Malaya tried to take over Malaya and Singapore by force, a
state of emergency was declared in June 1948. The emergency lasted for 12 years. Towards
the end of 1953, the British government appointed a commission under Sir George Rendel to
review Singapore's constitutional position and make recommendations for change. The
Rendel proposals were accepted by the government and served as the basis of a new
constitution that gave Singapore a greater measure of self-government.

The 1955 election was the first active political contest in Singapore's history. The Labor
Front won 10 seats and David Marshall became Singapore's first Chief Minister on 6 April
1955, with a coalition government made up of his own Labor Front, the United Malays
National Organization and the Malayan Chinese Association. Marshall resigned on 6 June
1956, after the breakdown of constitutional talks in London on attaining full internal selfgovernment. Lim Yew Hock, Marshall's deputy and minister for Labor became the Chief
Minister. The March 1957 constitutional mission to London led by Lim Yew Hock was
successful in negotiating the main terms of a new Singapore Constitution.

On 28 May 1958, the Constitutional Agreement was signed in London. The British
Parliament passed a State of Singapore Act and Singapore's status was changed from a
colony to a state. The Singapore (Constitution) Order-in-Councilwas enacted and it created
the position of a Yang di-Pertuan Negara as the constitutional head of state, a prime minister
and a 51-elected member Legislative Assembly.

Self-government was attained in 1959. In May, that year Singapore's first general election
was held to choose 51 representatives to the first fully elected Legislative Assembly. The
PAP won 43 seats, gleaning 53.4 percent of the total votes. On June 3, the new Constitution
confirming Singapore as a self-governing state was brought into force by the proclamation of
the Governor, Sir William Goode, who became the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of
State). The first Government of the State of Singapore was sworn in on June 5, with Mr. Lee
Kuan Yew as Singapore's first Prime Minister.

Part of Malaysia
To prevent a communist take-over of Singapore, on 27 May 1961, the Malayan Prime
Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, proposed closer political and economic co-operation
between the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei in the form
of a merger. The main terms of the merger, agreed on by him and Lee Kuan Yew, were to
have central government responsibility for defense, foreign affairs and internal security, but
local autonomy in matters pertaining to education and labor. A referendum on the terms of
the merger held in Singapore on 1 September 1962 showed overwhelming support the
merger. Malaysia was formed on 16 September 1963, and consisted of the Federation of
Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (now Sabah). Brunei opted out. Singapore
officially joined the Federation of Malaysia. The Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore (State
Constitutions) Order-in-Council was enacted.
The merger proved to be short-lived. Singapore separated from the rest of Malaysia on 9
August 1965, and became a sovereign, democratic and independent nation. This separation
was effected by three documents: The Constitution of Malaysia (Singapore Amendment) Act,
the Constitution of Singapore (Amendment) Act and the Republic of Singapore Independence
Act of 1965.

Independent Singapore was admitted to the United Nations on 21 September 1965, and
became a member of the Common wealth of Nations on 15 October 1965. On 22 December
1965, it became a republic, with Yusof bin Ishak as the republic's first President.

The Constitution of Singapore is the supreme law of Singapore and it is a codified

constitution. The Constitution cannot be amended without the support of more than twothirds of the members of parliament on the second and third readings. The president may seek
opinion on constitutional issues from a tribunal consisting of not less than three judges of the
Supreme Court. Singaporean courts, like the courts in Australia, cannot offer advisory
opinions on the constitutionality of laws.

Fundamental Rights

The Constitution entrenches certain fundamental rights, such as the freedom of religion,
freedom of speech and equal rights. These individual rights are not absolute but qualified by
public interests such as the maintenance of public order, morality and national security. Apart
from the general protection of racial and religious minorities, the special position of Malays,
as the indigenous people of Singapore, is constitutionally mandated.

Powers and Functions of Organs of State

The Constitution contains express provisions delineating the powers and functions of the
various organs of state, including the Legislature (Section 5), the Executive (Section 6) and
the Judiciary (Section 7).

Major Constitutional Developments: Post-independence

1970: to safeguard the rights of the racial, linguistic and religious minorities, the
Presidential Council was established and later renamed the Presidential Council for
Minority Rights in 1973.
1984: a constitutional amendment was passed to provide for non-constituency
members of Parliament.
1988: a constitutional amendment was passed to introduce group representation
constituencies (GRCs). At least one member of the GRC must be from a minority
1988: the constitution was amended to provide for nominated members of Parliament.
1991: the constitution was amended to provide for a popularly elected president.

The Judiciary
The Court System
The judge is the arbiter of both law and fact in Singapore. The jury system had been limited
in Singapore and was entirely abolished in 1970. Judicial power is vested in the Supreme
Court (comprising the Singapore Court of Appeal and the High Court) as well as the
Subordinate Courts.

The Court of Appeal

The highest court of the land is the permanent Court of Appeal, which hears both civil and
criminal appeals emanating from the High Court and the Subordinate Courts. As a significant
watermark of Singapores legal history, appeals to the Privy Council in England were
abolished in 8 April 1994. The Practice Statement on Judicial Precedent issued by the
Supreme Court on 11 July 1994 clarified that the Singapore Court of Appeal is not bound by
its own decisions as well as prior decisions of the Privy Council. However, it would continue

to treat such prior decisions as normally binding, though it may depart from the prior
precedents where it appears right to do so.

The Chief Justice sits in the Court of Appeal together with the Judges of Appeal. A Judge of
the High Court may, on the request of the Chief Justice, sit in the Court of Appeal. The Court
of Appeal is presided over by the Chief Justice, and in his absence, a Judge of Appeal or a
Judge of the High Court. The Court of Appeal is usually made up of three Judges. However,
certain appeals, including those against interlocutory orders, may be heard by only two
Judges. If necessary, the Court of Appeal may comprise five or any greater uneven number of

The High Court

The High Court consists of the Chief Justice and the Judges of the High Court. A Judge of
Appeal may also sit in the High Court as a Judge. Proceedings in the High Court are heard
before a single judge, unless otherwise provided by any written law. The High Court may
also appoint one or more persons with expertise in the subject matter of the proceedings to
assist the court.

The High Court Judges enjoy security of tenure whilst the Judicial Commissioners are
appointed on a short-term contract basis. Both, however, enjoy the same judicial powers and
immunities. Their judicial powers comprise both original and appellate jurisdiction over both
civil and criminal matters.

The High Court hears both criminal and civil cases as a court of first instance. The High
Court also hears appeals from the decisions of District Courts and Magistrate's Courts in civil
and criminal cases, and decides points of law reserved in special cases submitted by a District
Court or a Magistrate's Court. In addition, the High Court has general supervisory and
revisionary jurisdiction over all subordinate courts in any civil or criminal matter.

With a few limited exceptions, the High Court has the jurisdiction to hear and try any action
where the defendant is served with a writ or other originating process in Singapore, or outside
Singapore in the circumstances authorised by Rules of Court; or where the defendant submits
to the jurisdiction of the High Court. Generally, except in probate matters, a civil case must
be commenced in the High Court if the value of the claim exceeds $250,000.00. Probate
matters are commenced in the High Court only if the value of the deceased's estate exceeds
$3,000,000.00 or if the case involves the resealing of a foreign grant. In addition, ancillary
matters in family proceedings involving assets of S$1,500,000.00 or more are also heard in
the High Court.

The following matters are also exclusively heard by the High Court:

Admiralty matters;
Company winding-up proceedings;
Bankruptcy proceedings; and,
Applications for the admission of advocates and solicitors.

The High Court has jurisdiction to try all offences committed in Singapore and may also try
offences committed outside Singapore in certain circumstances. In criminal cases, the High
Court generally tries cases where the offences are punishable with death or imprisonment for
a term, which exceeds 10 years.

The Constitutional Tribunal

A special Constitutional Tribunal was also established, within the Supreme Court, to hear
questions referred to by the Elected President on the effect of constitutional provisions.

The Subordinate Courts

The Subordinate Courts (consisting of the District Courts, Magistrates Courts, Juvenile
Courts, Coroners Courts as well as the Small Claims Tribunals) have also been set up within
the Singapore judicial hierarchy to administer justice amongst the people. With the increased
sophistication in business transactions and law, the Commercial Civil and Criminal District
Courts have recently been established within the Subordinate Courts to deal with the more
complex cases.

The District and Magistrates Courts

The District Courts and the Magistrates Courts share the same powers over specific matters
such as in contractual or tortious claims for a debt, demand or damage and in actions for the
recovery of monies. However, the jurisdictional monetary limits in civil matters for the
Magistrates Courts and District Courts are $60,000 and $250,000 respectively. The courts
also differ in terms of criminal sentencing powers. Imprisonment terms imposed by the
Magistrates Courts are limited to two years and for the District Courts, seven years.

The Small Claims Tribunals

The Small Claims Tribunals, on the other hand, afford a speedier, less costly and more
informal process for the disposition of small claims. The monetary limit is $10,000 and up to
$20,000 only if the disputing parties consent in writing.

Family Courts
The Family Courts deal with divorces, maintenance, custody and adoptions.

Other Specialized Courts

Apart from the above courts, the following are specialized courts:

The Juvenile Courts deal with offenses committed by minors;

The Traffic Court hears and tries traffic offences;
The Night Courts, established in April 1992, deals with the high volume of regulatory
and traffic offences; and,
The Coroners' Court deals with cases that are classified by the Police as Coroners'
cases. The Coroners' Court will hold an inquiry when there is reason to suspect that a
person has died in a sudden or unnatural manner, by violence, when the cause of
death is unknown and in situations where the law requires an inquiry.

The Courts and Information Technology

The Judiciary has taken major steps in utilizing information technology in the courts, which
has, in part at least, enhanced its efficiency. The Technology Courts were, for instance, set up
to enable the sharing of information by lawyers and judges and the giving of evidence by
witnesses via video conferencing. Legal actions involving a company or an individual may be
monitored using a facility known as Casewatch. The Electronic Filing System (EFS), a joint
project by the Judiciary, Singapore Network Services and the Singapore Academy of Law to
enable the filing, extraction and service of court documents as well as the tracking of case
information by electronic means, has recently undergone further refinements to upgrade
services to end-users. Various information technology innovations have also been utilized to
facilitate and streamline various criminal processes, namely the registration and management
of criminal cases (SCRIMS), the processing of traffic charges between the police and the
courts (TICKS 2000) and the payment of fines for minor traffic offences (ATOMS).

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is rapidly growing as an alternative means of dispute
resolution for matters ranging from domestic and social conflicts to large-scale cross-border
legal disputes. ADR, with negotiation, mediation and arbitration as the main modes practiced
in Singapore, is an effective, efficient and economical means of resolving a spectrum of
disputes in a variety of settings.

ADR began tentatively in the 1980s when the government envisaged Singapore as a major
dispute resolution centre. The Singapore Government is a strong proponent of ADR and has
put in place substantive institutional and infrastructural framework to support this endeavor.
The Rules of Court (Cap 322, Rule 5, 1999 Rev Ed) provide ample opportunity for ADR
even within a litigation setting. Various modes of ADR could still be relied upon even if
litigation proceedings have begun. For instance, litigants or their legal representatives may
either apply to the court for the matter to be referred to mediation, or directly to the Singapore
Mediation Centre itself.

In 1986, Singapore acceded to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and
Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral AwardsUnder this Convention, each contracting State is
required to recognize and enforce arbitral awards made in another contracting State. Arbitral
awards rendered in Singapore are potentially enforceable in more than 120 jurisdictions. The
International Arbitration Act (Cap 143A, 2002 Rev Ed) which incorporates the United
Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International
Commercial Arbitration, gives effect to the Convention.

In 1991, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) was established. This was
followed by the establishment of the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) in 1997. In 1994,
mediation of civil disputes was first introduced in the Subordinate Courts through the Court
Mediation Centre. Since then, mediation is routinely conducted in the Small Claims
Tribunals, the Family Court, the Juvenile Courts, and the Ministry of Community, Youth and
Sports Maintenance of Parents Tribunal (Cap 167B). In "e@dr", electronic technology has
been harnessed for parties in e-commerce transactions to resolve their disputes through the

As part of the national effort to foster a mediation culture, the Community Mediation Centres
Act (Cap 49A, 1998 Rev Ed) was enacted in 1997 to spearhead the community mediation
endeavor, which is seen as an effective means of settling relational disputes on the ground,
especially in multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore. All mediation sessions are conducted at
two Community Mediation Centres (CMCs), CMC (Central) and CMC (Subordinate
Courts). The effort is aimed at developing an Asian model of mediation drawing on the
customary and influential role of the traditional leaders of the various races in mediating
conflicts within those communities.

In April 2003, the Chief Justice appointed Justice Judith Prakash to preside over all
arbitration matters brought before the High Court. This is part of the Judiciarys goal of
ensuring that Judges with the requisite expertise and experience preside over cases involving
specialized areas of law and commercial practice.

The Subordinate Courts now offer Court Dispute Resolution (CDR) and Court Dispute
Resolution International (CDRI). CDR is a free-of-charge voluntary settlement process by
which the parties reach a satisfactory solution with the aid of a neutral third person, the
Settlement Judge. The parties begin by having a joint discussion with the Settlement Judge
regarding their positions and requirements. At various stages, the Settlement Judge may call
for a caucus - a private session - where he speaks to the parties separately, in order to conduct
a full and frank discussion of the issues. In this way, issues can be identified and all involved
can then proceed to map out a suitable solution.

CDRI is a settlement conference co-conducted by a Singapore Subordinate Courts Judge and

a Judge, from another jurisdiction, such as Australia, Europe, or the United States of
America. The co-mediation provides a forum in which additional judicial perspectives and
views are brought to bear on disputes. CDRI will be confined to issues of fact, and will be
conducted using the Early Neutral Evaluation approach.

The Executive
The Ministry of Law
The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) helps to create, maintain and enhance Singapore's business
climate through the implementation of sound, transparent and pro-business legal policies and
an updating of the code of law originally inherited from the British.

Areas managed by the Ministry of Law include constitutional and trustee matters, legal
policies on civil and criminal justice, alternative dispute resolution and community
mediation, the administration of intellectual property rights, as well as the administration of
land titles and the management of state properties. The site has a useful page on the
Singapore Legal System and legal research materials.

Attorney Generals Chambers

The Attorney Generals Chambers (AGC) is the Governments legal adviser in all aspects
of public administration law, criminal law, international law, legislation and law reform;
AGC provides a vast array of legal expertise for the good governance of Singapore. The
Attorney-General (AG) is the legal adviser to the Government. He is also the Public
Prosecutor. The AG discharges his responsibilities and duties through 5 legal divisions (Civil,
Criminal Justice, International Affairs, Legislation and Law Reform and Revision), with the
support of the Corporate Services Division, the Computer Information Systems Department
and the Library and Resource Centre. In addition, the AGC provides the Singapore
Statutes.Online service. This is an online database, which provides access to Acts and
subsidiary legislation passed by the Singapore legislature. The AGC has a Legal Profession
(International Services) Secretariat (LPS) which is responsible for registering and

regulating foreign law firms and foreign lawyers wishing to practise foreign law in
Singapore. The LPS also regulates the practice of Singapore law in the banking, finance and
corporate work of joint law ventures.

Finally, the AGC is also involved in the publication of various types of documents, which
may be of interest to members of the public. This includes Revised Editions of the Laws of
Singapore, Law Reform Reports and Consultation Papers issued to garner feedback from
members of the public.

Competition Commission of Singapore

The Competition Commission of Singapore's work includes promoting fair competition,
maintaining and enhancing efficient market conduct and promoting overall productivity,
innovation and competitiveness of markets in Singapore. It acts internationally as the national
body representative of Singapore in respect to competition matters and it advises the
Government or other public authority on national needs and policies in respect to competition
matters generally. The Commission has powers to investigate and adjudicate anti-competitive
activities. It will also have the powers to impose sanctions.

There are 4 main divisions in the Competition Commission. They are the Business and
Economics (BE) Division, the Legal & Enforcement (LE) Division, the Strategic Planning
(SP) Division and the Corporate Affairs (CA) Division. Click here for more information
regarding the organizational structure.

Primary Sources of Law

Primary Legislation: Acts of Parliament
Print copies of legislation are available from Toppan LeeFung Pte Ltd. Hard copies may be
ordered from the website. Alternatively, the contact details are:

Toppan Leefung Pte. Ltd.

Legal Publishing
1 Kim Seng Promenade
#18-01 Great World City East Tower
Singapore 237994
Operating Hours
Monday to Friday: 9:30am to 6:00pm
Closed on Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday

Tel: (65) 6826 9685/6826 9629


Electronic Sources for Legislation

Bills introduced (commencement of 10th Parliament)
Bills introduced and passed in Parliament from 1 April 2002, beginning with the Police Force
(Amendment) Bill (Bill no.01/2002), are available on the Singapore Parliament
website. Statutes of the Republic of Singapore is a source for prior primary legislation
available in print format. Subsidiary Legislation of the Republic of Singapore also a print
publication provides access to prior secondary legislation.

Singapore Statutes Online

A joint initiative of the Attorney-Generals Chambers and the Managing for Excellence
Office, Ministry of Finance, the Singapore Statues Online is a legal research tool which offers
the public free access to the full text consolidation of Acts of Parliament and subsidiary
legislation that are in force. The Singapore Statutes Online is updated once a month
(generally on the 15th of the month). The Singapore Statutes Online provides an alphabetical
index of the Act titles and subsidiary legislation titles and a search interface for easy retrieval
of any Act or provisions of Acts.
Amendments to statutes are updated regularly on this website, but take note that only the
Revised Editions of Acts are authoritative. This is administered by the Attorney-General's

Lawnet Legal Workbench

Lawnet is a fee-based network administered by the Singapore Academy of Law. It provides
up-to-date repository of on-line legal research information such as statutory and case law.
Subscribers to the Legal Workbench database have access to Singapore legislation, case law
and treaties including:

Rev. Ed. of Singapore Statutes;

Rev. Ed. Of Singapore Subsidiary legislation;
Acts supplements;
Bills supplements;
Singapore Law Reports 1965-;
Malayan Law Journal 1932-;
Academy Digest 1995-;
Heritage Law Reports;
Military Court of Appeal decisions 1973-;
Unreported judgments 1991-;

Parliament reports 1977-;

Damages for personal injuries database; and,
Singapore treaties database.

Complimentary Access for Legal Academics

This service offers three months complimentary access to Legal Workbench for the purpose
of writing academic papers or articles touching on Singapore law. SeeLawNet for more
Laws of the Straits Settlements (1835 - 1919)
The C J Koh Law Library digitized this rare 5-volume set. The laws are freely available via
the NUS Libraries catalogue, LINC.

Selected Legislation (including treaties)

Arbitration Rules
The SIAC rules and the SIAC Domestic Arbitration Rules are published by the Singapore
International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).

Free Trade Agreements

International Enterprise (IE) Singapore in collaboration with Ministry for Trade and Industry
(MTI) Singapore Full texts of free trade agreements concluded between Singapore and other
countries. Published by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Internet Policy and Regulatory Framework

The Media Development Authority regulates Internet Service Providers and Internet Content
Providers through the Class License Scheme and Internet Code of Practice.

Intellectual Property Legislation

Intellectual Property Office of Singapore provides a useful list of IP legislation. This
includes information on legislation updates, Free Trade Agreements and public consultations.
It is also possible to locate Practice directions relating to patents, trademarks, registered
designs and plant varieties protection.

Manpower Legislation
Acts and regulations relating to labor relations, occupational health and occupational safety
are published by the Ministry of Manpower.

Monetary Authority of Singapore - Legislation & Notices

The Monetary Authority of Singapore publishes statutes, regulations and notices, which it
administers as well as other legislation which govern the financial industry in Singapore.

Singapore Code on Take-overs and Mergers

A copy of the code which is administered by the Securities Industry Council (SIC) is
published on the Monetary Authority of Singapore website.

Rules of Court
The Rules of Court are made in accordance with the provisions of the Supreme Court of
Judicature Act and regulate and prescribe the procedure and practice to be followed, mainly
in civil proceedings in the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court has
launched the electronic Rules of Court (or e-ROC), which provides easier online access to
the rules.

Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore

e-Tax Guides are an electronic store of tax guides. This service aims to provide convenient
and timely access to tax information grouped along the headings of Income Tax, GST,
Property, Stamp duty and Charities/ IPCs.

Tax Treaties
The Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements concluded by Singapore since 1965 are
available in full text. These are made available by the Inland Revenue Authority of

Family Law

The Family Court of Singapore provides links to legislation, Practice Directions and
Registrars Circulars used in the Family Court.

Criminal Law
The Criminal Justice Division provides links to legislation, Practice Directions and
Registrars Circulars used in the Criminal Courts. Some of the key acts include thePenal
Code (Cap 224) and the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68). It also highlights the sentencing
and bail guidelines.

Common Law
Singapore has inherited the English common law tradition. In essence, the common law
system of Singapore is characterized by the doctrine of judicial precedent (orstare decisis).
According to this doctrine, the body of law is created incrementally by judges via the
application of legal principles to the facts of particular cases. In this regard, the judges are
only required to apply the ratio decidendi (or the operative reason for the decision) of the
higher court within the same hierarchy. Thus, in Singapore, the ratio decidendi found in the
decisions of the Singapore Court of Appeal are strictly binding on the Singapore High Court,
the District Court and the Magistrates Court. The court decisions from England and other
Commonwealth jurisdictions are, on the other hand, not strictly binding on Singapore. Other
judicial statements (obiter dicta) made by the higher court in the judgment which do not
directly affect the outcome of the case may be disregarded by the lower court.

The lower court is able, in some cases, to avoid having to apply the ratio decidendi in a prior
higher courts decision if (a) it can materially distinguish the facts of the case before the
lower court from those in the prior higher courts decision; or (b) the higher courts decision
was made per incuriam (that is, without abiding by the doctrine of stare decisis) in the first

Influences of and Departures from English Common Law

The heavy influence of the English common law on the development of Singapore law is
generally more evident in certain traditional common law areas (such as Contract, Tort and
Restitution) than in other statute-based areas (such as Criminal Law, Company Law and the
Law of Evidence). With respect to the latter, other jurisdictions such as India and
Australiahave strongly influenced the approach and content of some of these statutes.

However, the erstwhile tendency of Singapore courts to adhere to English decisions has
recently given way to some significant departures from the English courts (even in the
traditional common law areas). This development of local jurisprudence reflects the need for

the autochthony of Singapore law is further driven by the European Union legal
developments and their impact on the British system.

Law Reports
Singapore Law Reports
Under an arrangement with the Government and Supreme Court of Singapore, the Singapore
Academy of Law is Singapores official law-reporting agency with primary responsibility for
the selection and publication of Singapore case law.

First published in 1992, the Singapore Law Reports are an integral part of legal practice and
scholarship in Singapore. The series reports on a fortnightly basis all legally significant cases
heard in the Singapore Court of Appeal and High Court, and by the Constitutional Tribunal.
Cases are selected for publication by the Council of Law Reporting chaired by the AttorneyGeneral.

In 2003, the Academy re-issued the Singapore Law Reports from 1965 through 2009. The
Singapore Law Reports (Reissue) was published in early 2010 with re-written head notes for
the reports from 19652002, and re-edited judgment texts, that conforms to the SAL housestyle. The Reissue together with the Singapore Law Reports current series forms the complete
set of law reports published by the Academy. The Singapore Law Reports and the Re-issue
are available in print and on-line thoughLawNet.

LawNet: Legal Workbench

Subscription database containing Singapore case law. Use of LawNet is on a per-session
basis in half-an-hour blocks of time for the following:
1) Singapore Case Law (Contains the Singapore Law Reports from 2010, Singapore Law
Reports (Reissue) (1965 - 2009), Judgments, Tribunal/Board Decisions of Singapore, The
Heritage Law Reports and more.)
2) Malaysian Case Law (Malayan Law Journal (MLJ) from 1932)

Mallal's Digest: Consolidated Table of Cases 2009 Reissue
Alphabetical table of cases digested in the fourth edition of Mallal's Digest Reissue volumes.
Refer to the Preface for dates of coverage. This is available in print at the CJ Koh Law
Library, National University of Singapore.

The Singapore Law Reports: Consolidated Index and Tables

There are 2 volumes containing alphabetical tables and subject indexes of cases reported in
the Singapore Law Reports for the years 1965-1996 and 1997-2000 respectively. For more
recent cases, refer to the tables and indexes in the individual volumes of the Singapore Law
Reports. Available in the CJ Koh Law Library, National University of Singapore.

Electronic Sources for Case Law

Case Law & Decisions
Free access to judgments of the following courts for the last 3 months is provided on their
respective websites.

Subordinate Courts
Supreme Court

Court of Appeal and High Court Judgments

Singapore Law Watch publishes the Court of Appeal and High Court Judgments for the last
three months. The information is provided by the Supreme Court of Singapore.

Unreported judgments of the District, Magistrate and Family Courts

These judgments are available on the Subordinate Courts of Singapore website. It also
includes links to grounds of decisions for cases of public interest.

SingaporeLaw: Judgments
Case law on this website includes Supreme Court judgments of the past three months and a
selection of earlier judgments. Managed by the Singapore Academy of Law.

Legal Decisions from the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore

Summaries of grounds of decisions made by the Registry of Trade Marks (1999- ). The
summaries are for information only and are not meant to be a comprehensive. Patent
decisions are available from 2008. The full text of decisions from 2010 are available on this
site but for information only. The official version of all decisions is available on LawNet.

Strata Title Board Judgments

Recent judgments are made available on the Strata Title Boards website. The archives start
from 1996.

Judgment from the International Court of Justice

The case concerning the sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge is
covered on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website.

Subscription Services
LawNet: Legal Workbench
Subscription database containing Singapore case law, in particular:
1) Singapore Law Reports
2) Malayan Law Journal
3) Academy Digest
4) Unreported judgments

Indexes and Digests

Mallal's Digest: Consolidated Table of Cases 2009 Reissue
Alphabetical table of cases digested in the fourth edition of Mallal's Digest Reissue volumes.
Refer to the Preface for dates of coverage. This is available in print at the CJ Koh Law
Library, National University of Singapore.

The Singapore Law Reports: Consolidated Index and Tables

There are 2 volumes containing alphabetical tables and subject indexes of cases reported in
the Singapore Law Reports for the years 1965-1996 and 1997-2000 respectively. For more
recent cases, refer to the tables and indexes in the individual volumes of the Singapore Law
Reports. Available in the CJ Koh Law Library, National University of Singapore.

Legislation and Case Law Indexes

Singapore Subsidiary Legislation (1981-1991) / Singapore Subsidiary Legislation (1991- )

Searchable indexes of all amendments to Singapore Subsidiary Legislation (1990

Ed.). Available in the CJ Koh Law Library, National University of Singapore.

The Statutes of the Republic of Singapore (Indexes)

The Alphabetical Index of Public Acts, Subject Index to Acts, and Chronological Table of
Singapore Acts are found at the front of the first volume of the Statutes. Available in
hardcopy at the Loans Desk of the C J Koh Law Library , the National University of

The Singapore Journal of Legal Studies (and its predecessor journals, the University of
Malaya Law Review and the Malaya Law Review) is in its 5th decade of publication. The
journal is managed by its Editorial Committee drawn from the Law Faculty of the National
University of Singapore with assistance and advice from eminent legal personalities from
other institutions in Singapore and abroad. It is fully peer-reviewed under conditions of
anonymity by subject specialists within and outside the Law Faculty, NUS.

It is one of the oldest legal journals in the British Commonwealth. The Journal has always
covered both domestic and international legal developments.

The Singapore Academy of Law Journal began in 1989. The Journal contains articles
relating to Singapore law as well as Asia-Pacific and common law legal systems, and
comparative and international law. The journal is available in print or online via LawNet. The
table of contents and abstracts are available on the Singapore Academy of Law website.

Parliamentary Information
The Singapore Parliament [[30]]
The Singapore Parliament has a single House and together with the President of Singapore is
known as the Legislature. The main function of the Singapore Parliament is the enactment of
laws governing the State.

The Singapore Parliament is modeled after the Westminster system of parliamentary

democracy where Members of Parliament are voted in at regular General Elections. The
leader of the political party that secures the majority of seats in Parliament will be asked by
the President to become the Prime Minister (PM). The PM will then select his Ministers from
elected MPs to form the Cabinet. When the new Parliament meets for the first time, the

Speaker will be elected followed by the oath taking of Members. The "life" of each
Parliament is 5 years from the date of its first sitting after a General Election. General
Elections must be held within 3 months of the dissolution of Parliament.

The Law-Making Process

The law-making process begins with a Bill, normally drafted by the Government legal
officers. Private members bills are rare in Singapore. During the parliamentary debates on
important Bills, the Ministers sometimes make impassioned speeches to defend the Bill and
answer pointed queries raised by the backbenchers. The Members of Parliament (MPs) may,
in some cases, decide to refer the Bill to a Select Committee to deliberate upon and submit a
report to the Parliament. If the report is favorable or the proposed amendments to the Bill are
approved by Parliament, the Bill is accepted by the Parliament and passed.

The Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR) established under the Singapore
Constitution is tasked, except for certain exempted bills, to scrutinize Bills for any measures,
which may be disadvantageous to persons of any racial and religious communities without
being equally advantageous to other such communities, either by directly prejudicing persons
of the community or indirectly giving advantage to another community. If the report of the
PCMR is favorable or a two-thirds majority in Parliament has been obtained to override any
adverse report of the PCMR, the Bill proceeds, as a matter of course, for the Presidents
assent. It is at this juncture that the Bill is formally enacted as law.

In terms of composition, the Singapore Parliament consists of both elected and non-elected
Members of Parliament (MPs).

Elected MPs
The elected MPs are drawn from candidates who have emerged victorious in general
elections held every 4 to 5 years. At present, Parliament is dominated by the ruling PAP with
a smallish representation from the opposition political parties. They are drawn from a
combination of single-member constituencies as well as Group Representation Constituencies
(GRCs). Established in 1988, the GRC presently consists of 4 to 6 members, at least one of
whom must be of a designated minority race. The underlying aim for the GRC is to entrench
multiracialism in Singapore politics.

Non-Elected MPs

The non-elected MPs, on the other hand, do not enjoy voting rights on constitutional
amendments, money bills and votes of no confidence in the Government. They consist of two
different categories: the Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) and the
Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP). NCMPs are appointed from the candidates who
have polled the highest percentage of votes amongst the losers in the general election.

Sources of Parliamentary Proceedings

The following can be found on the Parliament website:

Votes & Proceedings

Order Paper (Daily agenda)
Singapore Parliament Reports
Select Committee Reports
Bills Introduced
Standing Orders
Parliamentary Glossary

Free Trade and Avoidance of Double

Taxation Agreements
Singapore is connected to the major world economies and increasingly to new markets by a
network of 18 Free Trade and more than 60 Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements.

Singapores trade architecture includes her network of FTAs including ones with major
economies like India and more being negotiated in the pipelinetaxs, including with the Gulf
Co-operation Council and China. With FTAs, Singapore-based exporters and investors stand
to enjoy a myriad of benefits like tariff concessions, preferential access to certain sectors,
faster entry into markets and Intellectual Property (IP) protection.

The Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement between Singapore and another country
serves to prevent double taxation of income earned in one country by a resident of the other
country. It also makes clear the taxing rights between Singapore and her treaty partner on
different types of income arising from cross-border economic activities between the two
countries. The agreements also provide for reduction or exemption of tax on certain types of

Details can be found as follows:

Free-Trade Agreements
Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements

Singapore Government
SINGOV is the default homepage for the Singapore Government Online. All sites are
linked back to SINGOV. Its intuitive URL is short and easy to remember.

SINGOV is the "Government" component of the Singapore Government Online. It serves as

a convenient launch pad for users to locate information on the Singapore Government - such
as government news and policies, leadership and bureaucracy, official statistics put out by the
government, as well as details and contact information of public service agencies. SINGOV
not only acts as a gateway, it also highlights important information.

Singapore government information and publications can be access through the link. It
includes archives of Government Press Releases, official policy speeches, information from
the various Ministries' Newsrooms and Key Agencies' Releases. There is also a useful
directory of major governmental organs and a listing of the key officials.

Official Publications
Official publications like the Singapore Government Gazettes and Supplement are printed by
Toppan LeeFung Pte Ltd. These are available online by subscription under the eGazette
service. Subscription gives access to the entire database of eGazette, subscription may
commence at any time of the year. The eGazette is updated daily.

Both current notices and back issues are available for the following:
1) Government Gazette
2) Bills Supplement
3) Acts Supplement
4) Subsidiary Legislation Supplement
5) Industrial Relations Supplement
6) Treaties Supplement

Hard copies may also be ordered from the website. Alternatively, the contact details are:

Toppan Leefung Pte. Ltd.

Legal Publishing
1 Kim Seng Promenade
#18-01 Great World City East Tower
Singapore 237994
Operating Hours
Monday to Friday: 9:30am to 6:00pm
Closed on Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday
Tel: (65) 6826 9685/6826 9629

Singapore is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN,
which was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok by the five original Member Countries,
namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam
joined on 8 January 1984, Vietnam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July
1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999.

Objectives of ASEAN
The ASEAN Declaration (also known as Bangkok Declaration)states that the aims and
purposes of the Association are: (1) to accelerate economic growth, social progress and
cultural development in the region and (2) to promote regional peace and stability through
abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries in the
region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.

The ASEAN Vision 2020, adopted by the ASEAN Leaders on the 30th Anniversary of
ASEAN, agreed on a shared vision of ASEAN as a concert of Southeast Asian nations,
outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in
dynamic development and in a community of caring societies.

In 2003, the ASEAN Leaders resolved that an ASEAN Community should be established
comprising three pillars, namely, ASEAN Security Community, ASEAN Economic
Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. The areas of co-operation, structure,
and mechanisms of the ASEAN may be found online. There have also been efforts aimed at
bringing down barriers to trade and creating an ASEAN Free Trade Area.

The Singapore Legal Profession

The legal profession in Singapore is 'fused' - the Singapore lawyer may act as both an
Advocate as well as a Solicitor. Throughout, he or she remains an officer of the Supreme
Court. The Singapore lawyer may served in varied roles including as a legal or judicial
officer in the Singapore Legal Service, an in-house counsel of a company or practice law in a
local or international law firm. . In the local firm, the lawyer typically handles litigation,
corporate work, conveyance and intellectual property work. The lawyer in the international
law firm is generally limited to sophisticated corporate, finance and banking transactions.

The Law Society primarily upholds the interests of the practicing lawyers whilst the
Singapore Academy of Law seeks to advance the legal profession as a whole.

There are more than 800 law practices in 2012 according to the law society statistics with
85% of them being small practices with 5 or fewer lawyers. As of 31 August 2012, there are
4334 active practitioners who hold a practicing certificate.

Admission to the Singapore Bar

To be admitted to the Singapore Bar, an aspirant has to first attain the status of a 'qualified
person' by obtaining a law degree from the National University of
Singapore,Singapore Management University or from one of the approved overseas
universities of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The law graduates
from approved overseas universities are also required to take the Part A Bar Examinations
conducted by the National University of Singapore. All qualified law graduates must attend
the Preparatory Course leading to Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations and pass the Part
B Examination. This is conducted by theSingapore Institute of Legal Education (SILE).
Finally, the law graduate is required to complete a Practice Training Period with an Advocate
and Solicitor. The details regarding the requirements and duration are available on the SILE
website. Upon fulfillment of the above requirements, he or she is admitted to the Singapore

There are other avenues for admission to the Singapore Bar, albeit more limited, for Queens
Counsel and Malaysian practitioners.

The Singapore Academy of Law

The Singapore Academy of Law ("SAL" or "the Academy") was established by the
Singapore Academy of Law Act (Cap. 294A) in 1988. At the time of its inception, Parliament
had envisaged an institution patterned after the English Inns of Court, to develop among the
legal profession in Singapore a collegiate spirit, which is necessary for pride in the profession
and in its honorable standards and practices.

Over the years, the Academy has evolved from a membership-based body to a service-based
institution. It is now also the law reporting agency in Singapore; a continuing legal education
provider; a legal publications body; an alternative dispute resolutions agency; an appointing
body for Senior Counsel, commissioners for oaths and notaries public; a promoter of legal
information technology and the keeper of stake-holding moneys in Singapore.

The Academy is a statutory body with a broad set of functions. Under the Academy is its
subsidiary, the Singapore Mediation Centre, which plays a specialized and unique role in the
promotion of mediation as alternative means for the resolution of civil, commercial and trade

The Singapore Academy of Law Digital Library provides online access to various SAL
publications, reports as well as papers put up by the SAL Committees. SAL Members are
given free access to the full text of all articles contained in the SAL Annual Review, SAL
Journal and Inter Se.

Tax Academy of Singapore

The Tax Academy of Singapore was formed as a collaboration between the Inland Revenue
Authority of Singapore, The Law Society of Singapore and the international accounting firms
- Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The Tax
Academy of Singapore is a non-profit institution established to provide specialized and
structured tax training and education for practitioners and professionals who wish to embark
on a career in tax.

Legal Education
Law degrees in the Singapore, like the UK, are earned at an undergraduate level. This is
supplemented by the Preparatory Course. There has historically been a single faculty of law
in the country at the National University of Singapore. The Singapore Management School of
Law is the countrys second law school and was officially announced on 5 January 2007. The
School welcomed its first batch of 116 students in August 2007.

National University of Singapore Law Faculty

New York University and National University of Singapore combine to Offer Dual Graduate
Degree Program in Singapore. The NYU degree that will be offered in Singapore will be
called the LL.M. in Law and the Global Economy. If they wish, students will be able to focus
their studies in either U.S. and Asian Business and Trade Law or specialize in Justice and
Human Rights.

Students enrolled in the NYU@NUS program may also read courses towards the NUS LL.M.
degree and can choose to focus their studies on Asian Law, Commercial Law, Intellectual
Property and Technology Law, or International Law.

National University of Singapore (NUS) / East China University of Politics and Law
This program offers a one year Master of Laws in International Business Law taught in both
Singapore and Shanghai. The degree is awarded solely by the NUS.

SMU School of Law

The Singapore Management School of Law is the countrys second law school and was
officially announced on 5 January 2007. The School welcomed its first batch of 116 students
in August 2007. The Law School offers a 4-year full-time LLB programme, as well as a 5year double-degree programme which combines law with SMU's existing non-law
programmes in Accountancy, Business, Economics, Information Systems and Social

Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) programme

SMU introduced a Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) programme in 2009 as an additional route
for those who aspire to become qualified persons for the purpose of entry into the Singapore
legal profession, in addition to the traditional LLB programme. This is based on the North
American model of legal education. The programme is targeted at those who already have a
degree in another discipline or a law degree from another jurisdiction. It shares the core law
content of the LLB programme in SMU, and provides opportunities for internship.

LLM programme

In 2012, SMU launched its LLM programme. The LLM is a modular one-year programme
(with a maximum candidature of two years) where participants read a total of 8
courses. There are 3 specializations available: the LLM in Commercial Law, LLM in
Dispute Resolution and LLM in Islamic Law & Finance.

Continuing Professional Development

The Compulsory Continuing Professional Development scheme (CPD Scheme) was
introduced on1 April 2012. Advocates and solicitors admitted to the Singapore Bar on or
after 2 January 2007 must meet the CPD requirements set out in the Legal Profession
(Continuing Professional Development) Rules 2012. More details are available on the
Singapore Institute of Legal Education (SILE) site.

The Law Societys Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Portal provides a

framework for the systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of relevant
knowledge, skills and abilities that enables a professional to successfully carry out his/her
professional duties and responsibilities throughout his/her career. The Society provides
live/onsite continuing professional development programmes on professional practice,
practice management, business & management as well as personal development. These are
conducted adopting various teaching methodologies including seminars, workshops, case
studies, small group activities. In addition, the Society also sells conference materials from
their live/onsite programmes, provides free resources on training & development and a
training library with books and videos available for loan to Law Society members.

Academic Research
National University of Singapore
Singapore Management University

Legal Publishers
Toppan LeeFung Pte Ltd - eGazette
LawNet: Legal Workbench - Subscription database administered by the Singapore Academy
of Law containing Singapore statutes, subsidiary legislation, Parliament reports and treaties.

Legal News & Current Awareness

Singapore Law Watch is a free daily news service published by the Singapore Academy of
Law. The site features the latest Singapore law headlines, judgments, case highlights,

legislation as well as a current listing of seminars and publications. Readers may subscribe to
an email alert or RSS feeds.

The Law Society website provides short updates on the latest developments in legislation and
legal practice. It also carries a classified for jobs.
In the process of getting to the source, I came across several rich resources. However,
keeping the scope of this article in mind, I had to curb the temptation to list all of them. Still,
the richness of information has compelled me to mention the following few:
Charles Burton Buckley, Constance Mary Turnbull, and Lionel Astor Sheridan whose
writings well inform readers about the events prior to the birth of the Republic of Singapore.

1. (Sinnathamby) Rajaratnam, S. (Shanmugam) Jayakumar, Kevin Tan Yew Lee, Yeo

Tiong Min, Lee Kiat Seng, to name a few for writings mainly relating to postindependence period.

Supreme Court of Singapore
LawOnline Singapore Legal Portal
Singapore Academy of Law

The three links listed above will take any researcher to reliable information and in turn lead to
other rich resources.

National University of Singapore - C. J. Koh Law Library

For over fifty years, National University of Singapore through many of its reincarnations was
the sole academic institution offering law degrees in the region. Throughout this time, rich
information resources have found a home in the Universitys Law Library. The library,
presently known as C. J. Koh Law Library, and its staff has furthered legal education of
many. Keeping up with times and making use of modern day communications tools, the
Librarys website provides as well as leads researchers to desired sources.

Singapore Management University (SMU) Li Ka Shing Library

The SMU School of Law began in 2007. The Library has rich online resources. Its
Law Research Navigator is particularly useful with its How do I guides and its Singapore
law guide.