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 crimial cases, and decides points of law reserved in special cases submitted by a District Court or Magistrate’s Court. In addition, the High Court has general supervisory and revisionary jurisdiction over all courts in any civil or criminal matter.
With a few limited exceptions, the High Court has 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 the 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. For probate matters, a case is brought to the High Court only if the value of the deceased’s estate is more than $3 million or if the case involves the resealing of a foreign grant. The High Court also hears ancillary matters in family proceedings involving assets of $1.5 million or more.
The following matters are also exclusively heard by the High Court:
(a) Admiralty matters;
(b) Company winding-up proceedings;
(c) Bankruptcy proceedings; and
(d) 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.
Since January 2015, High Court has also comprised an additional division in the form of the Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”).The SICC hears transnational commercial disputes.
The jurisdiction of the SICC is governed by section 18D of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322) read with Order 110 Rule 7 of the Rules of Court.
The SICC has jurisdiction to hear and try an action if:
(a) The claim in the action is of an international commercial nature;
(b) The parties to the action have submitted to the SICC’s jurisdiction under a written jurisdiction agreement; and
(c) The parties to the action do not seek any relief in the form of, or connected with, a prerogative order (including a mandatory order, a prohibiting order, a quashing order or an order for review of detention).