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Service of Civil Processes

In Singapore, litigation proceedings are typically commenced by way of an originating process (either a writ or an originating summons (“OS”)), which is followed by the defendant’s response (who normally enters an appearance if there is an intention to dispute the claim). This is followed by pleadings, discovery of documents, directions by the court, interlocutory applications for interim or final relief and, if the case has not been resolved by settlement (normally through negotiation or mediation) or terminated by summary or other form of interlocutory judgment, the action will be set down for trial.

All originating processes must be served personally [Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2014 Rev Ed) (“the Rules of Court”), O. 10 r. 1 (writ) and O. 10 r. 5 (OS)]. Service out of the jurisdiction of any originating process is generally permissible with the court’s leave [O. 11 r. 1].

The general rule is that documents need not be served personally unless the Rules of Court or a court order expressly requires otherwise [O. 62 r. 1(1)]. Even if the Rules of Court require, the court has the power to dispense with the requirement of personal service [O. 62, r. 1(2)].

Litigation does not end when the judgment is rendered. There is usually at least one level of appeal as of right and the winning party may also face some resistance in enforcing judgments.

For more information, see:

Enforcement of Judgments

The Rules of Court provide for several ways to enforce a judgment:

(a) Writ of execution

(b) Examination of Judgment Debtors

(c) Garnishee proceedings

(d) Committal proceedings

It is also possible to enforce Singapore judgments in certain foreign jurisdictions and vice versa. Singapore judgments can be enforced by registration in countries and/or territories scheduled under:

(a) the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (Cap 264, 1985 Rev Ed) (“RECJA”), which covers the United Kingdom, Australia (the federal jurisdiction of Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, Australian Capital Territory, Norfolk Island, and Northern Territory), Hong Kong (for judgments obtained on or before 30 June 1997), New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Windward Islands, Pakistan, Brunei Darussalam, Papua New Guinea and India (except the State of Jammu and Kashmir); and

(b) the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (Cap 265, 2001 Rev Ed), which principally covers Hong Kong.

The availability of enforcement of judgments in foreign countries was recently bolstered by Singapore’s ratification in 2016 of the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements Act (“the Hague Convention”) and passed into local law as the Choice of Court Agreements Act 2016 (No 14 of 2016) (“CCAA”) . It is also now provided that the RECJA does not apply to any judgment which may be recognised or enforced in Singapore under the CCAA: see s 2A of RECJA.

The ratification of the Hague Convention would significantly aid in the enforceability of Singapore judgments in states, which are parties to the Convention. Admittedly, the reach of the Convention is presently limited due to the low number of signatories. Having said that, one of Singapore’s major trading partners, the European Union is a party and the possibility of ratifying the Convention has also been mooted in several other countries. As such, the ratification of the Hague Convention is a significant step in the right direction towards enhancing the enforceability of court judgments.

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Judicial review

In Singapore, Article 93 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1999 Rev Ed) (“the Constitution”) provides that “The judicial power of Singapore shall be vested in a Supreme Court and in such subordinate courts as may be provided by any written law for the time being in force.” This refers to the power to pronounce on the constitutionality of a piece of legislation. While the Constitution vests the judicial power in the judiciary, it does not expressly provide for judicial review powers.

Nevertheless, it is trite in Singapore that the courts possess judicial review powers over administrative decisions as well as decisions taken by other branches of government. This was elegantly expressed close to three decades ago in Chng Suan Tze v Minister for Home Affairs [1988] 2 SLR(R) 525 at [86]: “All power has legal limits and the rule of law demands that the courts should be able to examine the exercise of discretionary power”. Generally, the ambit of judicial review is based on the three separate grounds of illegality, irrationality and procedural impropriety.

The general rationale for judicial review is to:

(a) ensure the will of Parliament;

(b) serve as checks and balances based on the separation of powers; and

(c) fulfill the role of the judiciary as guardians of responsible administration.

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