Structure of the Courts

Constitution and Jurisdiction

The Judiciary is one of the three branches of government in Singapore, namely the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Under Article 93 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, judicial power in Singapore is vested in the Supreme Court and in such state courts as may be provided for by any written law for the time being in force. The Honourable the Chief Justice is the head of the Judiciary.


Singapore's Court Structure

The Supreme Court is made up of the Court of Appeal and the High Court, and hears both civil and criminal matters. The Supreme Court Bench consists of the Chief Justice, Judges of Appeal, Judges, Senior Judges, International Judges and Judicial Commissioners. The Supreme Court Registry is headed by the Registrar who is assisted by the Deputy Registrar, Senior Assistant Registrars and Assistant Registrars. Justices' Law Clerks, who work directly under the charge of the Chief Justice, assist the Judiciary by carrying out research on the law, particularly for appeals before the Court of Appeal.

Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal generally hears appeals against the decisions of the High Court in both civil and criminal matters. It became Singapore's final court of appeal on 8 April 1994, when appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council were abolished.

 

The Chief Justice sits in the Court of Appeal together with the Judges of Appeal. A Judge, Senior Judge, International Judge and Judicial Commissioner may sit in the Court of Appeal on such occasion as the Chief Justice requires. An International Judge may sit in the Court of Appeal for an appeal against a judgment or order of the Singapore International Commercial Court on such occasion as the Chief Justice requires. The Court of Appeal is presided over by the Chief Justice, and in his absence, a Judge of the Supreme Court or a person appointed by the Chief Justice to preside where the Court of Appeal does not include any Judge of the Supreme 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 judges.

High Court

The High Court consists of the Chief Justice and the Judges of the High Court. A Judge of Appeal may sit in the High Court on such occasion as the Chief Justice requires. A Senior Judge or Judicial Commissioner may also sit in the High Court on such occasion as the Chief Justice requires. An International Judge may sit in the SICC division of the High Court on such occasion as the Chief Justice requires.

 

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 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 state 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.

Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC)

The SICC is a division of the High Court and part of the Supreme Court of Singapore designed to deal with transnational commercial disputes. Generally, the SICC has the jurisdiction to hear and try an action if:

  1. the claim in the action is of an international and commercial nature;
  2. the parties to the action have submitted to the SICC’s jurisdiction under a written jurisdiction agreement; and
  3. 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).

The SICC may also hear cases which are transferred from the High Court.

SICC proceedings may be heard by either one or three judges.

Appeals from the SICC will be heard by the Court of Appeal which will consist of either three or five judges.

Please click here to access the SICC website.

Specialised Lists in the High Court

In response to the increasing complexity of commercial cases reaching the Judiciary, various specialised lists have been set up in the High Court. These specialised lists apply to cases in the High Court other than those in the Singapore International Commercial Court, which are international and commercial disputes managed by its own specialist judges.

The establishment of dedicated specialist commercial lists underscores the Supreme Court’s depth of expertise and experience in these areas, and its commitment to position and promote Singapore as a premier centre for dispute resolution and as a jurisdiction of choice for the resolution of both domestic and international commercial disputes.

While the High Court bench comprises distinguished jurists with the requisite skill and experience to handle any case placed before them, the High Court has identified judges who are able to bring their considerable experience and expertise in specialist areas of law to bear on complex commercial cases.

The specialised lists in the High Court comprise:

Building and Construction, Shipbuilding, Complex and Technical Cases

  • Quentin Loh J
  • Lee Seiu Kin J
  • Chan Seng Onn J
  • Vinodh Coomaraswamy J
  • Tan Siong Thye J
  • Kannan Ramesh J
  • Foo Chee Hock JC

Finance, Securities, Banking, Complex Commercial Cases

  • Belinda Ang J
  • Woo Bih Li J
  • Quentin Loh J
  • Vinodh Coomaraswamy J
  • George Wei J
  • See Kee Oon J
  • Chua Lee Ming J
  • Kannan Ramesh J
  • Aedit Abdullah JC

Company, Insolvency, Trusts

  • Vinodh Coomaraswamy J
  • Kannan Ramesh J
  • Aedit Abdullah JC
  • Quentin Loh J
  • Tan Siong Thye J
  • Chua Lee Ming J
  • Valerie Thean JC
  • Hoo Sheau Peng JC
  • Debbie Ong JC
  • Pang Khang Chau JC
  • Audrey Lim JC

The Guide for the Conduct of Companies, Insolvency, Equity & Trust and Arbitration Suits encapsulates the case management features and specialist practices that have been developed and is issued as part of the Supreme Court's larger initiative to implement a docket system in the management of its Companies, Insolvency, Equity & Trust and Arbitration suits. It supplements the Rules of Court and the Supreme Court Practice Directions.

Arbitration

  • Judith Prakash JA
  • Belinda Ang J
  • Quentin Loh J
  • Vinodh Coomaraswamy J
  • Chua Lee Ming J
  • Kannan Ramesh J

Shipping and Insurance

  • Steven Chong JA
  • Belinda Ang J
  • Quentin Loh J
  • Chua Lee Ming J
  • Pang Khang Chau JC

Tort Claims

Tort

  • Choo Han Teck J
  • Woo Bih Li J
  • Tan Siong Thye J
  • See Kee Oon J
  • Kannan Ramesh J
  • Valerie Thean JC
  • Hoo Sheau Peng JC
  • Debbie Ong JC
  • Aedit Abdullah JC
  • Foo Chee Hock JC
  • Pang Khang Chau JC
  • Audrey Lim JC

Tort (Medical Negligence)

  • Choo Han Teck J
  • Belinda Ang J
  • Woo Bih Li J
  • Tan Siong Thye J

Tort (Motor Accidents)

  • Vinodh Coomaraswamy J
  • Tan Siong Thye J
  • See Kee Oon J
  • Chua Lee Ming J
  • Kannan Ramesh J
  • Valerie Thean JC
  • Hoo Sheau Peng JC
  • Debbie Ong JC
  • Aedit Abdullah JC
  • Foo Chee Hock JC
  • Pang Khang Chau JC
  • Audrey Lim JC

Intellectual Property / Information Technology 

  • George Wei J
  • Lee Seiu Kin J
  • Chan Seng Onn J
  • Hoo Sheau Peng JC
  • Aedit Abdullah JC
  • Pang Khang Chau JC
  • Audrey Lim JC

The IP Court Guide encapsulates the IP Court’s case management features and specialist practices. It supplements the Rules of Court and the Supreme Court Practice Directions and applies to all cases under the IP Court.

Employment

  • Choo Han Teck J
  • Woo Bih Li J
  • Lee Seiu Kin J
  • Tan Siong Thye J
  • Chua Lee Ming J
  • Hoo Sheau Peng JC
  • Debbie Ong JC
  • Foo Chee Hock JC
  • Pang Khang Chau JC
  • Audrey Lim JC

Revenue Law

  • Choo Han Teck J  
  • Aedit Abdullah JC

Public Law and Judicial Review

  • Woo Bih Li J
  • Quentin Loh J
  • See Kee Oon J
  • Chua Lee Ming J
  • Kannan Ramesh J
  • Aedit Abdullah JC
  • Foo Chee Hock JC