Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

Courts adjudicate on disputes between persons and between persons and the state, dispensing justice based on the law. Singapore does not have jury trials, which were abolished in 1969. Trials for capital offences are heard before a single Judge.

The Chief Justice, Justices of the Court of Appeal, Judges of the Appellate Division, Judges of the High Court and Judicial Commissioners are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

There are two tiers of the court system in Singapore: 

First Tier

The Supreme Court is the highest judicial court in Singapore. It comprises the Court of Appeal and the High Court. The High Court consists of the General Division of the High Court (“General Division”) and the Appellate Division of the High Court (“Appellate Division”).  


General Division 

The General Division hears both criminal cases and civil claims exceeding $250,000 in the first instance, as well as appeals from District Court and Magistrate’s Court decisions. The General Division has the power to try all offences committed in Singapore and even some outside of Singapore.  In general, it hears criminal cases where offences are punishable by death or imprisonment of more than 10 years. The General Division also exercises revisionary jurisdiction over the State Courts in criminal cases.

In the General Division, cases are usually heard before a single Judge, unless otherwise stated in the written law. 

Appeals arising from a decision of the General Division in civil matters will be allocated between the Appellate Division and the Court of Appeal in accordance with the statutory framework set out in the Supreme Court of Judicature Act. In cases where leave is required to appeal against a decision of the General Division, the leave application will be heard by the relevant appellate court, whose decision on the application for leave to appeal will be final.  


Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal hears all criminal appeals against decisions made by the General Division in the exercise of its original criminal jurisdiction, prescribed categories of civil appeals and appeals that are to be made to the Court of Appeal under written law. 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 from the Appellate Division if leave is granted for such appeals. 

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. Certain appeals may also be decided without hearing oral arguments if parties consent.


Appellate Division 

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.


Second Tier

The second tier is the State Courts (previously called the Subordinate Courts).  

State Courts

District Courts: hear civil cases where the value of the claim is between $60,000 and $250,000, or up to $500,000 for road traffic accident claims or claims for personal injuries arising out of industrial accidents, as well as criminal cases where the maximum imprisonment term does not exceed 10 years or which are punishable with a fine only. 

Magistrates’ Courts: hear civil cases involving claims not exceeding $60,000 and criminal cases where the maximum imprisonment term does not exceed 5 years or which are punishable with a fine only. 

Small Claims Tribunal: resolve common types of low-value disputes for claims of up to $20,000 (or up to $30,000 with written consent from both parties). 

Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals: hears disputes between neighbours concerning the tort of interference with enjoyment or use of place of residence. 

Employment Claims Tribunals: hears salary-related claims and wrongful dismissal claims not exceeding $20,000 or $30,000 for tripartite-mediated disputes.

Coroner’s Court: holds inquiries into cases of sudden or unnatural deaths or where the cause of death is unknown.  


Family Justice Courts

The Family Justice Courts comprise the Family Division of the High Court, the Family Courts and the Youth Courts. These courts will hear the full suite of family-related cases including all divorce and related matters, family violence cases, adoption and guardianship cases, Youth Court cases, applications for deputyship under the Mental Capacity Act and probate and succession matters. 

 

Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC)

The SICC was set up in 2015 as part of the Supreme Court to hear transnational commercial disputes.

It serves to complement arbitration by providing a court-based alternative for international commercial dispute resolution. The Judges comprise specialist commercial judges from Singapore and international judges from civil and common law traditions.

The SICC builds on the strong foundations of the Supreme Court, recognised for its integrity, fairness and efficiency, as well as Singapore’s reputation as the leading arbitration hub in Asia. By positioning Singapore as a prime destination for international commercial dispute resolution, the SICC bolsters Singapore’s standing as a key legal and business hub.