Knowledge Highlights 27 March 2020
With the Covid-19 outbreak and the Ministry of Health’s Advisories on social distancing and other measures at the workplace, businesses have been prompted to adjust the way they work to reduce the risk of local spread of Covid-19, including implementing work-from-home arrangements. This would affect legal processes such as the attestation of statutory declarations and affidavits.
Statutory declarations and affidavits are required by law for a number of legal and business matters. Under the Companies Act, statutory declarations and affidavits are required for the certification of certain company documents to be lodged with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority. They may also be required under the Stamp Duties Act and the Income Tax Act for certain submissions, applications and proceedings, in legal proceedings, and in certain intellectual property proceedings.
Statutory declarations and affidavits are made by a deponent in the physical presence of a commissioner for oaths or a notary public. Affidavits are also sworn or affirmed by deponents, inter alia, as a way of presenting evidence to a court. This allows the commissioner or notary to satisfy himself as to the identity of the deponent by seeing his identity card, passport or other means of identification, among other things. A telephone call from a person who says that the statutory declaration or affidavit duly signed by its deponent is being sent over to the commissioner or notary will not be acceptable.
Given the Covid-19 crisis, individuals and companies may experience some difficulty in arranging for the physical administration of statutory declarations and affidavits in Singapore.
Is it possible, then, for a person to validly make a statutory declaration or an affidavit without the commissioner or notary being physically present?
Due to the current situation, individuals and companies may need to consider having such documents executed by way of video conference instead. Although this is not something expressly provided for under the Oaths and Declarations Act, in Singapore, such arrangements are practised and are acceptable provided that certain safeguards are satisfied. The procedure for a commissioner in Singapore to administer oaths or take and receive statutory declarations via video-conferencing link is presently provided for in a manual issued by the Singapore Academy of Law.
This would be a good option for individuals who wish to get their statutory declaration or affidavit administered in Singapore, while not having to physically attend before a commissioner.
For statutory declarations or affidavits to be administered before a notary in Singapore, such an option does not appear to be available. This may be because as such documents are meant to be used overseas, the applicable foreign laws may not allow video conference attestation. The situation is, however, rapidly evolving and emergency measures may be put in place to address this issue.
In relation to statutory declarations or affidavits to be administered before a notary outside of Singapore for use in Singapore, the Covid-19 situation is causing established procedures to be constantly changing. Some jurisdictions have already permitted notarisations using video conferencing technology and other jurisdictions may do so should lockdowns and social distancing measures continue.
In addition, we have a cross-disciplinary Covid-19 Legal Task Force consisting of Partners across various practice areas to provide rapid assistance. Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at email@example.com.