29 April 2019
On 22 April 2019, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Mr Edwin Tong, SC (“Minister”) delivered the keynote address at the Litigation Conference 2019 organised by the Law Society of Singapore where the Minister announced that the Ministry of Law (“MinLaw”) is considering the introduction of a new court division which will sit as an appellate court (“new appellate court”).
The Minister set out details of the proposed new appellate court system in his speech.
Overview of proposed new appellate system
The Minister set out the various options being studied with regard to the possible introduction of a new appellate court. They include the following:
- Designating a pool of judges to sit in the new appellate court;
- Appeals from the High Court to be distributed between the two appellate courts - the new appellate court as well as the existing Court of Appeal; and
- The Court of Appeal to retain its status as Singapore’s apex court.
With regard to the distribution of appeals between the Court of Appeal and the new appellate court, the Minister stated that MinLaw expects the Court of Appeal to primarily hear cases that:
- Are likely to have substantial consequences to individuals or society;
- Concern the Court of Appeal’s control and oversight of lower courts and tribunals; or
- Concern the general administration of justice.
These would include, for example, cases relating to the construction of the Constitution, criminal matters, contempt of court, and Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) cases. The new appellate court will hear other appeals from the High Court. However, MinLaw proposes to have a mechanism which will allow appeals that do not fall within these categories of cases, but satisfy certain other criteria, to be dealt with by the Court of Appeal directly.
MinLaw is also considering permitting further appeals to the Court of Appeal for cases heard by the new appellate court.
It has been proposed that the new appellate court be allowed the discretion to order Affidavits of Evidence-in-Chief (“AEICs”) to be filed after pleadings but before disclosure of documents and discovery will also only involve documents that parties intend to rely on which would naturally be scoped by the issues in AEICs that have already been exchanged. There are also proposed provisions with regard to the new appellate court and interlocutory applications, with MinLaw proposing that the court will order, as far as possible, a single omnibus application pending trial to be made by parties.
The Minister explained that by getting parties to file an omnibus application at a single point in time, the proposal also introduces order and logicality to the way in which interlocutory relief is sought - quite unlike the current regime where there are hardly any restrictions on parties taking out interlocutory applications, whichever type and whatever time.
The Minister also discussed the proposal for a general rule that one common expert will be utilised in cases where expert evidence is required. The intent of this was to improve the quality and materiality of expert evidence put before the court.