27 September 2019

On 2 September 2019, the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments (Amendment) Bill (“REFJ(A) Bill”) and the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments (Repeal) Bill (“RECJA Repeal Bill”) were passed in Parliament.

The effect of the two Bills will be to consolidate Singapore’s statutory regime on the reciprocal enforcement of foreign judgments into a single framework. The RECJA Repeal Bill seeks to repeal the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (“RECJA”) and to make consequential amendments to the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (“REFJA”) and the International Arbitration Act.

As explained by Senior Minister of State for Law, Mr Edwin Tong, SC (“SMS Tong”) the new framework will expand the scope of reciprocal arrangements which Singapore can enter into with foreign countries, by allowing more types of judgments to be covered.

Currently, the scope of judgments covered by reciprocal arrangements is limited to final money judgments given by foreign superior courts in civil proceedings and final judgments given by foreign superior courts in any criminal proceedings for the payment of damages or compensation to an injured party.

The reforms included in the REFJ(A) Bill provide the broad statutory framework for Singapore to negotiate reciprocal enforcement agreements or arrangements with foreign countries. However, SMS Tong noted in his speech before Parliament that the precise scope of enforceable judgments will be decided and negotiated with each foreign country individually.

Overview of new framework

The REFJ(A) Bill will expand and modernise the reciprocal enforcement of foreign judgments framework by adding four types of judgments given in civil proceedings:

  • Non-money judgments: Including non-money judgments into the framework will allow litigants to realise a fuller range of remedies. This will include freezing orders and injunctions preventing a party from dealing with assets to ensure that assets remain available to satisfy an eventual money judgment. Injunctions requiring a party to do or to refrain from doing an act and orders for specific performance which require a party to perform obligations under a contract are also caught under the REFJ(A) Bill.
  • Lower court judgments: Allowing the recognition and enforcement of judgments of both lower and higher courts will open the doors for judgments from Singapore State Courts to be enforced overseas as the REFJ(A) Bill is reciprocal in nature.
  • Interlocutory judgments: The inclusion of interlocutory judgments into the framework will strengthen the enforceability of judgments, including by ensuring that assets are not dissipated before a final judgment is obtained so that the successful claimants are not left with only a “paper” judgment.
  • Judicial settlements, consent judgments, consent orders: SMS Tong stated that arrangements between parties concluded before a court to end the court proceedings should equally be recognised and enforced like a judgment. This affords parties certainty of finality in their disputes and to respect the parties’ binding commitment. This amendment will bring the regime under the REFJA in line with the Choice of Courts Agreements Act, which recognises and enforces judicial settlements, consent judgments and consent orders.

The REFJ(A) Bill also provides that some types of foreign judgments will not be recognised. For example, a judgment registered or enforced in a recognised court originating from a court with which Singapore has no reciprocal enforcement arrangements will fall outside the scope of the framework. Such provisions are included in the REFJ(A) Bill to ensure the requirement for reciprocity is not circumvented.

The RECJA Repeal Bill provides for the repeal of RECJA on a date to be stipulated. Reciprocating countries currently recognised under RECJA will be transferred to the new regime prior to the RECJA Repeal Bill coming into effect.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the Parliament website www.parliament.gov.sg and the MinLaw website www.minlaw.gov.sg:


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