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, Justices of the Court of Appeal, Judges of the Appellate Division, Judges of the High Court, 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 and the Appellate Division of the High Court (“Appellate Division”).

Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal generally hears appeals against the decisions of the General Division of the High Court (“General Division”) in all criminal matters and prescribed categories of civil appeals. The prescribed categories of civil appeals are set out in the Sixth Schedule to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act The Court of Appeal also hears appeals that are to be made to it under written law. 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 Justices of the Court of Appeal. A Judge of the Appellate Division, a Judge of the High Court, a Senior Judge, an International Judge and a 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 Supreme Court Judge or a person appointed by the Chief Justice to preside where the Court of Appeal does not include any Supreme Court Judge.

The Court of Appeal is usually made up of three judges. However, certain appeals may be heard by two, five or any greater uneven number of Judges.

 

High Court

The High Court comprises the General Division and Appellate Division. The General Division consists of the Chief Justice and the Judges of the High Court. The Appellate Division consists of the Chief Justice and the Judges of the Appellate Division. A Justice of the Court 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.


The General Division hears both criminal and civil cases as a court of first instance. The General Division also hears appeals from the decisions of District Courts and Magistrates’ 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 General Division has general supervisory and revisionary jurisdiction over all state courts in any civil or criminal matter.

With a few limited exceptions, the General Division 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 General Division. Generally, except in probate matters, a civil case must be commenced in the General Division if the value of the claim exceeds $250,000.

The following matters are also exclusively heard by the General Division:

  • Admiralty matters;
  • Company winding-up proceedings;
  • Bankruptcy proceedings; and
  • Applications for the admission of advocates and solicitors.
The General Division has jurisdiction to try all offences committed in Singapore and may also try offences committed outside Singapore in certain circumstances. In criminal cases, the General Division generally tries cases where the offences are punishable with death or imprisonment for a term which exceeds 10 years.

Proceedings in the General Division are heard before a single judge, unless otherwise provided by any written law. The Court may also appoint one or more persons with expertise in the subject matter of the proceedings to assist the court.

The Appellate Division hears all civil appeals that are not allocated to the Court of Appeal under the Sixth Schedule to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act and any civil appeal or other process that any written law provides is to lie to the Appellate Division. It has no criminal jurisdiction. 

Appeals before the Appellate Division will usually be heard by three Judges. However, certain appeals may be heard by two Judges. Parties may also consent to an appeal being decided by a 2-Judge coram of the Appellate Division, instead of a 3-Judge coram. The final composition of the coram will be determined by the Appellate Division. Further, certain appeals may be decided without hearing oral arguments if parties consent.

 


Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC)

The SICC is a division of the General Division 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 General Division.

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 General Division 

In response to the increasing complexity of commercial cases reaching the Judiciary, various specialised lists have been set up in the General Division. These specialised lists apply to cases in the General Division 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 Judges of the High Court comprise distinguished jurists with the requisite skill and experience to handle any case placed before them, the General Division also has specialist 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 General Division comprise:

Building and Construction, Shipbuilding, Complex and Technical Cases

  • Judge of the Appellate Division Justice Quentin Loh
  • Justice Lee Seiu Kin
  • Justice Chan Seng Onn
  • Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy
  • Justice Tan Siong Thye
  • Justice Ang Cheng Hock
  • Justice Vincent Hoong
  • Judicial Commissioner S. Mohan
  • Judicial Commissioner Andre Maniam
  • Judicial Commissioner Philip Jeyaretnam
  • Judicial Commissioner Kwek Mean Luck

Finance, Securities, Banking, Complex Commercial Cases

  • Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy
  • Justice See Kee Oon
  • Justice Aedit Abdullah
  • Justice Ang Cheng Hock
  • Justice Dedar Singh Gill
  • Judicial Commissioner S. Mohan
  • Judicial Commissioner Andre Maniam
  • Judicial Commissioner Philip Jeyaretnam
  • Judicial Commissioner Kwek Mean Luck

Company, Insolvency, Trusts

  • Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy
  • Justice Kannan Ramesh
  • Justice Aedit Abdullah
  • Justice Chua Lee Ming
  • Justice Valerie Thean
  • Justice Hoo Sheau Peng
  • Justice Pang Khang Chau
  • Justice Audrey Lim
  • Justice Ang Cheng Hock
  • Justice Vincent Hoong
  • Justice Mavis Chionh
  • Judicial Commissioner Philip Jeyaretnam

Arbitration

  • Justice of the Court of Appeal Justice Judith Prakash
  • Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy
  • Justice Chua Lee Ming
  • Justice Kannan Ramesh
  • Justice Ang Cheng Hock
  • Judicial Commissioner S. Mohan
  • Judicial Commissioner Andre Maniam
  • Judicial Commissioner Philip Jeyaretnam

The Guide for the Conduct of Companies, Insolvency, Equity & Trust and Arbitration Suits (PDF, 238.34 KB) (PDF, 238.34 KB) and the Guide for the Conduct of Arbitration Originating Summons (PDF, 219 KB) (PDF, 215.49 KB) encapsulate 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 cases. It supplements the Rules of Court and the Supreme Court Practice Directions.

Shipping and Insurance

  • Justice of the Court of Appeal Justice Steven Chong
  • Justice Chua Lee Ming
  • Justice Pang Khang Chau
  • Justice Ang Cheng Hock
  • Justice Vincent Hoong
  • Judicial Commissioner S. Mohan
  • Judicial Commissioner Kwek Mean Luck

The Admiralty Court Guide (Second Edition) (PDF, 3MB) (PDF, 2.89 MB) sets out the key case management features and the specialists procedures developed in relation to the exercise of admiralty jurisdiction in Singapore. It supplements the Rules of Court.

Tort Claims

Defamation, Professional Negligence, Statutory Tort

  • Justice Choo Han Teck
  • Justice Tan Siong Thye
  • Justice Valerie Thean
  • Justice Pang Khang Chau
  • Justice Audrey Lim
  • Justice Vincent Hoong
  • Justice Dedar Singh Gill
  • Justice Mavis Chionh
  • Judicial Commissioner S. Mohan
  • Judicial Commissioner Kwek Mean Luck

Medical Negligence

  • Justice Choo Han Teck
  • Justice Tan Siong Thye
  • Justice Mavis Chionh
  • Judicial Commissioner S. Mohan
  • Judicial Commissioner Philip Jeyaretnam
  • Judicial Commissioner Kwek Mean Luck

Intellectual Property / Information Technology 

  • Justice Dedar Singh Gill
  • Justice Lee Seiu Kin
  • Justice Chan Seng Onn
  • Justice Valerie Thean
  • Justice Hoo Sheau Peng
  • Justice Aedit Abdullah
  • Justice Pang Khang Chau
  • Justice Audrey Lim
  • Justice Mavis Chionh
  • Judicial Commissioner Andre Maniam
  • Judicial Commissioner Kwek Mean Luck

The IP Court Guide (PDF, 96.98 KB) (PDF, 96.98 KB) 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.

Revenue Law

  • Justice Choo Han Teck  
  • Justice Aedit Abdullah
  • Justice Mavis Chionh

Public Law and Judicial Review

  • Justice See Kee Oon
  • Justice Chua Lee Ming
  • Justice Kannan Ramesh
  • Justice Valerie Thean
  • Justice Hoo Sheau Peng
  • Justice Aedit Abdullah
  • Justice Audrey Lim
  • Justice Ang Cheng Hock
  • Justice Dedar Singh Gill