Case Summaries

Telecom Credit Inc v Midas United Group Pte Ltd [2018] SGCA 73


26 October 2018

Case summary

Telecom Credit Inc v Midas United Group Pte Ltd
[2018] SGCA 73
Civil Appeal No 138 of 2017


Decision of the Court of Appeal (delivered by Justice Judith Prakash):

The CoA holds that leave must be obtained to appeal to the CoA against a decision by a High Court Judge to order a trial to determine a garnishee’s liability to pay a debt claimed to be due to the judgment debtor.

  1. The appellant was a judgment creditor who had obtained a provisional garnishee order against the respondent, who was then required to show cause why the order should not be made absolute. The assistant registrar ordered a trial to determine the respondent’s debt to the judgment debtor, and the High Court Judge affirmed the order. The appellant appealed, and the respondent submitted that the Court of Appeal lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal because the appellant had failed to obtain leave to appeal. ([1])

  2. The Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) (“the Act”) specified where leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal was required, according to the type of matter. In this case, the appellant would have required leave to appeal if the Judge’s order was an “order at the hearing of any interlocutory application” within the meaning of para (e) of the Fifth Schedule of the Act. This general provision was applicable because the scope of the right to appeal against orders made by a High Court Judge in garnishee proceedings was not expressly delineated in the Act. The Court of Appeal held that the Judge’s order fell within para (e), and therefore dismissed the appeal. ([3][5] and [38])

  3. The court noted that the authorities had established that “order” in para (e) meant “interlocutory order”, referring to an order which did not finally dispose of the rights of the parties. However, there appeared to be uncertainty over the meaning of “interlocutory application”. ([8] and [19][21])

  4. In the court’s view, “interlocutory application” in para (e) meant an application whose determination may or may not finally determine the parties’ rights in the cause of the pending proceedings in which the application was being brought. This interpretation was consistent with the purpose of the Act, which placed the focus on whether the application in question was one that had an effect on the final outcome of the case. Para (e), being a general provision dealing with the right of appeal for matters not expressed provided for in Act, promoted this purpose best through this interpretation of “interlocutory application”, in combination with the established consequence-focused definition of “order”. ([26] and [27])

  5. Applying this understanding of para (e), the court held that garnishee show cause proceedings were interlocutory because their determination would not necessarily determine the parties’ rights: the court may discharge the provisional order, make it absolute or order a trial. In this connection, the court rejected the appellant’s argument that no application subsisted at the show cause hearing given that the ex parte application for a provisional order had already concluded. As the appellant did not just want a provisional order but also an absolute order, his application still subsisted at the show cause hearing. Given that the hearing may or may not lead to a final determination of the parties’ rights, the application had to be interlocutory. ([31][33])

  6. Given the proper meaning of “interlocutory application”, the court also rejected the appellant’s submission that only applications made before judgment could be interlocutory. To the extent that the High Court’s decision in Chen Chun Kang v Zhao Meirong [2012] 1 SLR 817 (which the appellant relied on) supported that submission, it ought not to be followed. In any event, the interlocutory nature of garnishee show cause proceedings did not derive from the fact that garnishee proceedings were ancillary to the main proceedings in which the judgment creditor obtained judgment. ([24] and [34])

  7. Another reason why garnishee show cause proceedings were interlocutory, in the court’s view, was the fact that they were closely analogous to summary judgment proceedings, which were undoubtedly interlocutory. In both cases, there was the possibility of a final order and the possibility of a future trial. And as with summary judgment, the fact that the applicant in garnishee show cause proceedings simply wished to avoid a trial and be awarded a final order in his favour summarily did not make those proceedings any less interlocutory in nature. ([35] and [36])

  8. Finally, the Judge’s order was an interlocutory order because it did not finally determine the parties’ rights, but instead convened a trial at which those rights might be finally determined. Therefore, the Judge’s order was an interlocutory order on an interlocutory application, and fell within the meaning of para (e). ([37])

    This summary is provided to assist in the understanding of the Court’s grounds of decision. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s grounds of decision.