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FEATURE

RecentAmendmentstotheSupremeCourtofJudicature
ActandtheSubordinateCourtsAct
Overview
ImportantamendmentshaverecentlybeenmadetotheSupremeCourtofJudicatureAct(Cap322)(SCJA)andthe
SubordinateCourtsAct(Cap321)(SCA).Theseamendments,whichariselargelyoutoftheworkoftwoCommittees,1
aretheculminationofamajorreviewofthetwoActssince1993.Asubstantialpartofthereformconcernsappealsincivil
cases,suchasthestreamliningofinterlocutoryappeals(includingtheremovalofthemandatoryrequirementoffurther
arguments),changestotheleavetoappealprovisions,andanexpansionintheciviljurisdictionofthetwoJudgeCourtof
Appeal.InrelationspecificallytotheSCA,thejurisdictionandpowersoftheDistrictCourtandMagistratesCourthave
beenrationalised.

ACalibratedApproachtoInterlocutoryAppeals
Previously,apartydissatisfiedwithadecisionoftheHighCourtregistrarmadeonaninterlocutoryapplicationwas
generallyabletoappealtotheHighCourtJudgeinChambersandfurthertotheCourtofAppeal(CA),asofright.2
Therewerelimitedexceptions,suchasordersgrantingunconditionalleavetodefend,whichwerenonappealabletothe
CA,andordersrefusingtostrikeoutanaction,whichwereappealabletotheCAonlywithleaveofCourt.
Interlocutoryapplicationstypicallyconcerntriteprinciplesoflaw,anddonotdisposeofthesubstantiverightsofthe
parties.ItcanbearguedthattheCAshouldnotspendtoomuchofitstimeandresourceshearingappealsfrom
interlocutorydecisionsattheexpenseofothersubstantiveappeals.Itisalsoincongruentthataninterlocutoryissuecan
gothroughmorelevelsofappealthanafinaldecisionmadeafteraHighCourttrial.Ontheotherhand,thereremainsa
needforthedevelopmentofjurisprudencebythehighestCourt,oncriticalareasofcivilprocedurelawthatmayarisein
interlocutoryapplications.
Toaddresstheseconcerns,theamendmentsintroduceacalibratedapproach,underwhichdifferenttypesofordersmade
oninterlocutoryapplicationsarespecificallyidentifiedandcategorisedaccordingtowhethertheordersareappealable
asofright,appealableonlywithleaveofCourt,ornonappealabletotheCA.Theguidingconsiderationsarethe
importanceoftheparticularordermadeintheapplication,andwhetheritmayeffectivelyterminatetheproceedingsor
haveseverelyprejudicialconsequencesforaparty.
Wheretheordermadedisposesofwithfinality,thesubstantiverightsoftheparties,anappealtotheCAwillremainasof
right.Thiscategoryincludesordersforsummaryjudgment,ordersrefusingtosetasidedefaultjudgments,andorders
strikingouttheactionordefenceordismissingtheaction.Anorderstayingproceedingsongroundsofforumnon
conveniensorinfavourofarbitrationwillalsofallwithinthiscategory,becauseeventhoughstrictlyspeaking,theCourt
proceedingsinSingaporeareonlysuspended,thepracticaleffectisthattheseproceedingscometoanend.Wherean
amendmentofpleadingsissoughtaftertherelevantperiodoflimitationhasalreadyexpired,andtheamendmentisto
addanewcauseofaction,3 theordermadeonsuchanapplicationcanbeappealedagainsttotheCAasofright.The
rationaleisthattheoutcomeofsuchamendmentapplicationsmayhaveimplicationsonthesubstantiverightsofthe
parties,asissuesoflimitationareinvolved.
ThelistofordersforwhichanappealtotheCAisprohibitedcanbefoundunderthenewFourthScheduleoftheSCJA.At
theoutset,itisworthrememberingthatevenfortheapplicationslistedundertheFourthSchedule,partieswillgenerally
stillbeentitledtoonelevelofappealtotheHighCourtJudgeinChambers,assuchapplicationsaretypicallyheardat
firstinstancebyregistrars.
Ordersrefusingtostrikeoutanactionorpleading,whichwerepreviouslyappealabletotheCAwithleaveofCourt,are
nownonappealabletotheCA.Thiscanbejustifiedonthebasisthattheeffectofsuchanorderisthesameasorders
grantingleavetodefendorrefusingtosetasidedefaultjudgments,forwhichappealstotheCAhavealwaysbeen
barred.4 TwotypesofapplicationshavebeensingledoutforwhichnoappealcanlietotheCA,regardlessofthe
outcomeoftheapplication.Theseareapplicationsforfurtherandbetterparticulars(FBPs),andapplicationsfor
interrogatories.Thelegalprinciplesintheseareasofcivilprocedurearewellestablishedanduncontroversial.Inrelation
toFBPs,whatamountstonecessaryparticularsineachindividualcasewouldseemlargelyamatterofdegree,and
dependsontheCourtsapplicationofstraightforwardlegalprinciplestothefactsofeachcase.Asregardsinterrogatories,
theseareinthenatureofquestionsthatcanstillbeputtothewitnessesduringtrial,suchthatafailuretoobtain
interrogatoriesmaynotcausesevereprejudice.
Whereanamendmentapplicationisallowed,thepartyresistingtheapplicationwillnolongerbeabletoappealtotheCA.
Itispossibletoviewamendmentapplicationsasthereverseofastrikingoutapplication.Inparticular,allowingan
amendmenthassimilareffecttoarefusaltostrikeoutpartofthepleadings.Ifso,thereismuchtobesaidfortreatingthe

twotypesofordersthesamewayandprohibitinganappealtotheCA.Moreover,anamendmentofpleadingsdoesnot
generallyleadtosignificantprejudicetotheotherpartythatcannotbecompensatedbycosts.
AnotherinstancewherenoappealcanlietotheCAiswhentheCourtrefusestomakeanorderforsecurityforcosts.The
outcomeofasecurityforcostsapplicationdoesnothaveadirectbearingonthesubstantivedispute.Yet,appealsin
respectofsecurityforcostsoftencausesignificantdelaystotheprogressofthecase,becauseproceedingsaretypically
stayedpendingtheprovisionofsecurity.SuchconsiderationsmilitateagainstarighttoappealtotheCAinrespectof
securityforcostsapplications.However,itshouldbeappreciatedthatwheresecurityisorderedandtheplaintiffisunable
tofurnishit,thiscouldpotentiallybringanendtohisclaim.Themoresignificantimpactjustifiesadifferenttreatment,and
therefore,anordergrantingsecurityforcostsisstillappealabletotheCA,butonlywiththeleaveoftheCourt.
ThenewFifthScheduletotheSCJAcoversapplicationsthatareappealabletotheCAwiththeleaveofCourt.Inaddition
toordersgrantingsecurityforcosts,discoveryorders,ordersrefusingtoallowanamendmentofpleadings,andorders
refusingtostayproceedingsarespecificallyidentified.Inrespectofdiscoveryorders,thereisaneedtoretainanavenue
ofappealtotheCAinappropriatecases,becausenotonlydodiscoveryordershavethepotentialofmateriallyimpacting
theconductoflitigation,especiallyincommercialandcontractualdisputes:discoveryapplicationsalsofrequentlyraise
importantquestionsoflaw,suchasonthelawofprivilegeorconfidentiality,whichdeservetheCAsattention.Further,
preactionandnonpartydiscoveryareareasofthelawinarelativelyearlystageofdevelopment,andwouldbenefitfrom
furtherexpositionbytheCA.WithregardtotheCourtsdismissalofanamendmentapplication,theeffectisthatmaterial
factsandallegations,orcausesofactionordefencesthataresoughttoberaisedwouldnotfalltobeconsideredor
adjudicateduponatall.TheconsequencesareseriousenoughtojustifyrecoursetotheCA,providedthatleaveofthe
Courtisobtained.
InrelationtoallotherinterlocutoryapplicationswhicharenotspecificallyidentifiedunderthetwoSchedules,andwhich
donotfallintothecategoryofapplicationsthatareappealableasofright,asdescribedabove,thereisageneralblanket
requirementofleaveofCourtinordertoappealtotheCA.Thisisreflectedunderpara(e)intheFifthSchedule.This
representsafundamentalshiftfromthepreviousdefaultrule,underwhichallordersmadeininterlocutoryapplications
wereappealableasofrighttotheCAunlessotherwiseprovidedfor.
ForinterlocutoryappealsfromtheSubordinateCourtstotheHighCourt,therearenowrestrictionsimposedaswell,
namelyinrelationtoordersgrantingleavetodefendandorderssettingasidedefaultjudgments.Theseorders,whichare
nonappealabletotheHighCourt,arelistedunderthenewThirdSchedule.
TheThird,FourthandFifthSchedulescanbeamendedbytheMinister,inconsultationwiththeChiefJustice,shouldthe
needariseinfuturetofinetunethedifferentcategoriesofapplications.

RemovalofMandatoryRequirementofFurtherArguments
ItusedtobethatifapartywishestoappealtotheCAagainstaninterlocutoryorder,itwasmandatoryforhimtowritein
forfurtherargumentstothejudgewhoheardtheapplication,withinsevendaysofthedateoftheorder.5 Thiscouldbea
draconianrequirement,asthefailuretoaskforfurtherargumentswithintheveryshorttimeframewouldeffectivelybar
anyappealtotheCA.Moreover,therewasaperceptionthatfulfillingtherequirementtypicallyinvolvedamererehashing
ofargumentsbeforethesamejudge,andoftendidnotserveanyusefulpurpose.Indeed,inDownerediWorksPteLtdv
Holcim(Singapore)PteLtd,6WooBihLiJreferredtothefactthattheprovisionhadcausedmanylitigantstostumble
resultingintimeconsumingandcostlyapplicationsforextensionoftime,withthedifficultiesbeingcompoundedbythe
factthatitwasnotalwayseasytodeterminewithcertaintywhethertheordermadeisinterlocutoryinnature.
Inlightofsuchconcerns,anews28BhasbeenintroducedintheSCJAsothatthemakingoffurtherargumentsisnow
voluntary.Inotherwords,itisnolongeraprerequisiteinordertobeabletoappealtotheCAinrespectofan
interlocutoryorder.Thepartiesmaywriteinforsuchargumentsiftheywantto,orthejudgecanrequestforthesame.
Section28Bprovidesthattheparties,orthejudge,mustrequestforfurtherargumentsbeforetheextractionoftheorder,
or14daysafterthedatetheorderismade,whicheverisearlier.

ChangestoLeavetoAppealProvisions
Priortotheamendments,whereleavetoappealwasrequiredunders34(2)oftheSCJA,iftheHighCourtjudgerefused
tograntleave,thepartywhointendedtoappealcouldseekthesamefromtheCA.Thiswillnolongerbethecase.The
decisionoftheHighCourtjudgeonwhetherleavetoappealshouldbegrantedwillnowbefinal.7Thisappliestoallthe
limbsofs34(2),includingtheinstanceswhereleavetoappealtotheCAisrequiredforordersmadeoninterlocutory
applications.
Whiletherequirementofleavetoappealservesasanimportantfilteringmechanism,theapplicableprinciplesare
uncontroversialandwellestablished.TheHighCourtjudgeisclearlyinapositiontodeterminewhetherleaveshouldbe
grantedineachcase.Withalikelyincreaseinthenumberofleavetoappealapplicationsinlightoftheamendments
relatingtointerlocutoryappeals,theCAslimitedresourcesshouldnotbestretcheddisproportionatelytodealwithsuch
applications,attheexpenseofthetimelyresolutionofsubstantiveappeals.Itisalsoimportanttobearinmindthatin
additiontointerlocutoryappeals,theothercommonsituationwhereleavetoappealisrequiredwillbeinrelationto
appealsfromtheSubordinateCourtswheretheamountindisputeisbelow$250,000.Forsuchcases,therewould
alreadybeonetierofappealtotheHighCourtasofright,andtherequirementofleaveonlyappliestothesecondtierof
appealtotheCA.

Anotherkeyareaofchangeconcernsthedescriptionofthemonetarythresholdsfortriggeringtherequirementofleaveto
appeal.Thereusedtobesomediscrepancyinthephrasingfoundunders34(2)(a)ands21(1)oftheSCJA,which
providedforthemonetarythresholdsof$250,000and$50,000,inrelationtoappealstotheCAandappealsfromthe
SubordinateCourtstotheHighCourt,respectively.Sincethepurposebehindthetwosubsectionsisthesame(vizasa
screeningmechanismforappeals),thereislittlereasonwhythemonetarythresholdsunderthetwoprovisionsshouldbe
describeddifferently.Theamendmentsstandardisethewordingunderbothprovisionstorefertotheamountindisputeor
thevalueofthesubjectmatteratthehearingortrialbelow.Theamendmentsalsoclarifythatinterestsandcostsare
excludedinthecomputationofthethresholdamount.8 Afurtherwelcomedevelopmentisthatwhereacasemustbe
broughtintheHighCourteventhoughtheclaimisbelow$250,000,forinstancebecausethereiswrittenlawwhich
providesthattheHighCourthasexclusiveoriginaljurisdictionoversuchaclaim,therequirementofleavetoappealto
theCAwillnolongerapply.9

ExpansionofCivilJurisdictionofTwoJudgeCA
TheciviljurisdictionofthetwojudgeCAunders30(2)oftheSCJAhasbeenexpandedbeyondhearingappealsagainst
interlocutoryorderstoalsoincludeappealsagainstordersmadeinassessmentofdamagesortakingofaccounts.10In
suchcases,thequestionofliabilitywouldalreadyhavebeenresolvedandwhatremainsisquantification,theprocessof
whichdoesnotgenerallyinvolvenovelorcomplexissuesoflawbutrathertheapplicationofestablishedlegalprinciples
toagivensetoffacts.Itshouldalsobenotedthatsuchhearingsarealmostalwaysconductedatfirstinstanceby
registrars,suchthatwhenthematterreachestheCA,itwouldalreadyhavebeenthroughtwotiersofappeal.Allowinga
twojudgeCAtohearsuchappealsconstitutesaneffectiveutilisationofthescarcejudicialresourcesofourhighestCourt.
Inaddition,thetwojudgeCAisnowalsoempoweredtohearapplicationsforextensionoftimetofiletheNoticeof
Appeal.11 Suchapplicationscanbesaidtobeincidentalinnature,buts36(1)oftheSCJA,whichconfersjurisdictionon
asinglejudgesittingastheCAtohearapplicationsforincidentaldirectionscannotapply.Thisisbecauses36(1)
envisagesasituationwhentherearealreadyproceedingspendingbeforetheCourtofAppeal,andthiscannotbeso
priortothefilingoftheNoticeofAppeal.Asaresult,theseapplicationshadbeenheardbyathreejudgecoram,even
thoughthequestionistherelativelystraightforwardoneofwhetheranextensionoftimeshouldbegranted.The
amendmentaddressesthisandensuresamoreefficientuseoftheCAstimeandresources.

RationalisationoftheCivilJurisdictionoftheSubordinateCourts
ThemostsignificantaspectoftheamendmentstotheSCAistherationalisationoftheciviljurisdictionoftheDistrictCourt
andtheMagistratesCourt,whichwillnowbecomprehensive,coveringalltypesofactionsandremedies.Thischange
doesawaywiththesomewhattechnicalandhistoricalrestrictionsonthejurisdictionoftheSubordinateCourts.Thereis
noreasonwhythejurisdictionoftheSubordinateCourtsshouldbelimitedbythenatureoftheclaim,andinparticularthe
jurisdictionshouldnotbeconfinedtoonlyclaimsincontractandintort.Suchconstraintsoftencreatedpracticaldifficulties
forpartiesmakingclaimswithintheDistrictCourtorMagistratesCourtmonetarylimit,astheywereunabletorelyinthe
alternativeonothercommonlaworequitableactionsandwouldhavetopursueseparateproceedingsintheHighCourt.
Withtheamendments,theciviljurisdictionoftheSubordinateCourtswouldbedefinedpurelybasedontherespective
monetaryjurisdictionallimitsoftheDistrictCourtandtheMagistratesCourt.Thiscreatesacoherentthreetierciviljustice
system.TheonlyexceptionisthattheMagistratesCourtcannothearpurelynonmonetaryclaims,assuchclaimsare
morelikelytobecomplex.

Conclusion
Thewiderangingamendmentsaretobewelcomedasprovidingatimelyupdateoftwocriticalpiecesoflegislationonthe
jurisdictionandpowersoftheCourts.Thetablebelowsummarisesthemajorareasofchangehighlightedabove.
TeoGuanSiew
SecretarytotheCommitteetoReviewandUpdatetheSCJAandSCA

RestrictingInterlocutoryAppealstotheCA
PreviousPosition
AllordersmadeoninterlocutoryapplicationsappealableasofrighttotheCA,exceptfor:
Nonappealable:(s34(1)(a)&(b))
Appealablewithleave:(s34(2))(d)
Unconditionalleavetodefend,orsettingasideunconditionallya
defaultjudgment.

Orderrefusingtostrikeoutactionorpleading.

Conditionalleavetodefend,orconditionalsettingasideofdefault
judgment(unlessDisappealing).
NewPosition
Nonappealable:S34(1)(a),(b) Appealableasofright

Appealablewithleave

FBPs

Summaryjudgment

Discovery

Interrogatories

Refusaltosetasidedefaultjudgment

Wheresecurityforcosts

Wheresecurityforcostsrefused Strikingoutaction/defence

granted

Whereamendmentallowedand Dismissalofaction

Whereamendmentrefused
and

Refusingtostrikeoutaction.

Stayofproceedings
AmendmentafterlimitationandofnatureunderO20r
5(3),(4)&(5).

Refusaltostayproceedings.

AllotherinterlocutoryapplicationsappealablewithleavetotheCA
DecisionofHighCourtJudgeonLeavetoAppealisFinal
PreviousPosition
TwoattemptsatobtainingleavetoappealtoCA:

NewPosition
OnlyoneattemptatobtainingleavetoappealfromHighCourtjudge,
whosedecisionisfinal:

IfHCjudgerefusesleave,cangofurthertoCAtotry
andobtainleave.
Forinterlocutoryappealsthatrequireleaveand

Otherlimbsofs34(2)eg,whereamountclaim<$250,000(ie,
SubordinateCourtscase).
ExpansionoftwojudgeCAsJurisdiction
PreviousPosition
TwojudgeCAcanhearappealsagainst:(s30(2))

NewPosition
AdditionalmattersthatatwojudgeCAcan
hear:

Interlocutoryorders

AppealsagainstAssessmentofDamages/
Anyotherorderexceptajudgmentobtainedafteratrialofwritactionoraftera TakingofAccounts
hearingofmattercommencedbyanyotheroriginatingprocess.
ApplicationstoextendtimeforfilingNotice
ofAppealand
Applicationstovary/dischargeorders
madebysinglejudgeCAunders36(1).
FurtherArguments
PreviousPosition
Forappealsagainstinterlocutoryorders,further
argumentsaremandatoryunders34(1)(c):
Mustbemadewithinsevendaysfromdateof
order,failingwhichnoappealcanbebroughtto
theCA.

NewPosition
Furtherargumentsarevoluntary:
Ifpartywantstomakefurtherarguments,mustbemadebeforethe
extractionoftheorder,orwithin14daysoftheorder,whicheveris
earlier.
NotcompulsorybeforeappealcanbefiledtoCA.

RationalisationofSubordinateCourtsJurisdiction
PreviousPosition
DistrictCourtandMagistratesCourt
canhearcommonlawactionsin
contractandtortonly:

NewPosition
DistrictCourtandMagistratesCourtcanhearalltypesofactionatcommonlawand
equity,andcangrantanyremedy(includingfinalinjunctions),subjectonlytotheir
respectivemonetaryjurisdictionallimits:

Also,MagistratesCourthasno
OnlyqualificationMagistratesCourthasnojurisdictionoversolelynonmonetary
powertograntinjunctions(interimor claims.
final).
Notes
1.TheReportoftheCommitteetoReviewandUpdatetheSCJAandSCA(chairedbyChaoHickTinJA),andthe
ReportoftheSingaporeAcademyofLaw(SAL)LawReformCommittee(chairedbyJudithPrakashJ)onThe
RationalisationofLegislationRelatingtoLeavetoAppeal.[Return]
2.Thiswasprovidedthepartycompliedwiththerequirement,underthethens34(1)(c)oftheSCJA,ofmakingfurther
argumentstotheHighCourtJudge.[Return]
3.UnderO20r5(5)oftheRulesofCourt.Similarly,iftheamendmentsoughtisofthenatureunderO20r5(3)or(4)and
therelevantlimitationperiodhasexpired,theordermadeisappealableasofrighttotheCA.[Return]
4.Underthethens34(1)(a)and(b)oftheSCJA.[Return]

5.Underthethens34(1)(c)oftheSCJA.[Return]
6.[2009]1SLR(R)1070.[Return]
7.Section34(2B)oftheSCJA.[Return]
8.Thisreflectsthepositionincaselaw:seeAbdulRahmanbinSharifvAbdulSalimbinSyed[1999]4SLR716.[Return]
9.Section34(2A)oftheSCJA.[Return]
10.Section30(2)(d)and(e)oftheSCJA.[Return]
11.Section30(2)(a)oftheSCJA.[Return]