Service of Documents and Stages up to Trial

Issuing a Writ of Summons

An action may be commenced by the filing of a Writ of Summons (“Writ”) in the High Court. Pursuant to Paragraph 104 of the Supreme Court Practice Directions, court documents must be filed electronically under eLitigation. If a plaintiff is represented by a solicitor, the solicitor may file the Writ online if he is registered user, or at the LawNet Service Bureau. If a plaintiff is unrepresented, he may file the Writ himself at the LawNet Service Bureau. The LawNet Service Bureau located at Level 1 of the Supreme Court Building. For more information on the Service Bureau’s opening hours, document filing charges and step-by-step guide on filing, please click here.

The Writ is issued after being signed and sealed by the Registrar. A copy of the sealed Writ is returned electronically through eLitigation for service on the defendant. If a plaintiff filed the Writ at the LawNet Service Bureau, the sealed Writ may be collected from the LawNet Service Bureau for service on the defendant.


Validity of the Writ

A Writ is generally valid for 6 months from the date of issue (except in Admiralty Proceedings, where the Writ is valid for 12 months). Where a Writ is to be served out of jurisdiction (i.e. outside Singapore), it is valid for 12 months from the date of issue.

If the plaintiff does not serve the Writ within the validity period, he has to apply to the Court to renew the Writ by way of a summons. The Court may renew the Writ for up to 12 months.

Entering Appearance

If a defendant is served with a Writ within jurisdiction and wishes to defend the action, he has to enter an appearance in the action, within 8 days after service of the Writ, by filing with the Court and serving on the Plaintiff a Memorandum of Appearance. If the Writ is served out of jurisdiction, the defendant has 21 days after service of the Writ to enter an appearance in the action.


Judgment in Default of Appearance

If the defendant fails to enter an appearance within the time specified in the Writ, the plaintiff may enter judgment against him. This may be either a final judgment or an interlocutory judgment, depending on the nature of the claim. The defendant may apply to the Court by summons to set aside or vary the judgment.



A pleading is a party’s written statement of the facts on which he relies for his claim or defence, as the case may be. Pleadings serve to crystallise the positions of the parties for the trial so that parties may prepare for the trial accordingly and not be taken by surprise. This saves time and expense as the trial will not be unnecessarily lengthened by matters that are not in dispute.

There are no pleadings in actions commenced by Originating Summons.

The typical pleadings in an action commenced by a Writ are:
  • Statement of Claim
  • Defence or Defence and Counterclaim
  • Reply or Reply and Defence to Counterclaim

Statement of Claim

A Statement of Claim sets out the relevant facts establishing the plaintiff’s claim. A statement of claim may be endorsed on the Writ and served together with the Writ. Where a Writ does not have an endorsed statement of claim, the Statement of Claim must be filed and served on the defendant within 14 days of the defendant entering an appearance in the action.


Defence or Defence and Counterclaim

Where the defendant has entered an appearance and intends to defend an action, he is required to file and serve his Defence 14 days after the time limited for entering an appearance or after the service on him of the Statement of Claim, whichever is later. If a defendant alleges that he has any claim or is entitled to any relief or remedy against the plaintiff, he may file and serve a counterclaim in the same action brought by the plaintiff. In such a case, the defendant’s pleading is known as the Defence and Counterclaim.


Judgment in Default of Service of Defence

Where the defendant has been served with the writ and has entered an appearance but has not served a Defence, the plaintiff may apply to the Court to enter judgment against the defendant. This may be either a final judgment or an interlocutory judgment, depending on the nature of the claim. The defendant may apply to the Court by summons to set aside or vary the judgment.


Reply and/or Defence to Counterclaim

A plaintiff may file and serve his Reply within 14 days after the Defence has been served on him. Where there is a counterclaim by the Defendant, the plaintiff may file and serve a Reply and Defence to Counterclaim or just a Defence to Counterclaim if there is no Reply.


Third-Party Proceedings

If the defendant is of the view that a person who is not already a party to the action should be made to indemnify him or contribute towards the plaintiff’s claim, the defendant may apply to Court to add that party as a “third party” to the action. This gives rise to third-party proceedings. The defendant is viewed as the plaintiff in the third-party proceedings and the third party, as the defendant in the third-party proceedings. Strictly speaking, the original plaintiff has little or no interest in the third-party proceedings. There are instances where subsequent parties may be added to the same action.


Close of Pleadings

Pleadings are deemed to be closed 14 days after service of the Reply or, if there is no Reply but only a Defence to Counterclaim, after service of the Defence to Counterclaim. If neither Reply nor a Defence to Counterclaim is served, pleadings are deemed to be closed 14 days after the Defence is served.

Discovery and Inspection of Documents

Generally, after the close of pleadings, barring the filing of any interlocutory applications that may dispose of the action, the next stage will be discovery and inspection. At discovery, parties are expected to reveal to each other documentary evidence that has a bearing upon the issues in the case.

Directions will usually be given at Pre-trial Conferences by a Registrar for parties to file and serve a list of the relevant documents in their possession, custody or power relating to the action. The definition for “document” can be found in Section 3 of the Evidence Act (Cap 97 1997 Rev Ed). A document is relevant where it could:

(i) adversely affect a party’s own case;
(ii) adversely affect another party’s case; or
iii) support another party’s case.

The filing of a List of Documents (“LOD”) must usually be accompanied by an affidavit verifying the List of Documents (“AVLOD”). The LOD must be in Form 37 of the Rules of Court and must enumerate the documents in a convenient order describing each of them sufficiently to enable it to be identified. The AVLOD must be in Form 38 of the Rules of Court.

Under Order 24 r 9 the party serving the LOD must also serve a notice in Form 41 of the Rules of Court stating a time within 7 days after the service and where the documents may be inspected. The notice must also state which documents the Party is objecting to produce for inspection and grounds for such refusal. 


Exchange of affidavits of evidence-in-chief and Set Down

For the purposes of the trial, all parties will exchange their and their witnesses’ affidavits stating evidence to support their case. Such affidavits are known as Affidavits of Evidence-in-Chief (“AEIC”) and the exchange takes place before the trial. Any party or witness may not be allowed to be called to give evidence at trial if his AEIC has not been exchanged unless the Court grants a dispensation.

When the action is ready for hearing, the plaintiff will be directed to file a Request for Setting Down Action for Trial as provided for in Form 61 pursuant to Order 34 rule 3 of the Rules of Court together with the Set Down Bundle and pay any Hearing Fees imposed.

The parties are informed of the trial dates and are required to file the necessary bundles of documents for the trial.



Subpoenas are documents issued to ensure the attendance of witnesses at trial, failing which, the affidavits they have submitted as their evidence-in-chief will be rejected by the Court. Three types of subpoenas may be issued. The first requires the witness to attend Court to give oral evidence; the second requires the person named to produce documents without the obligation to attend Court personally; and the third requires the witness to both give evidence in Court and produce documents.