31 January 2018

The Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Bill, which was passed in Parliament on 9 January 2018, makes several amendments in relation to the operation of the Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”), including clarifying that the jurisdiction of the SICC extends to international commercial arbitration matters, such as applications to set aside an arbitral award or to enforce the same.

The SICC was established in 2015 as a division of the High Court to hear international commercial disputes, including those governed by foreign law.

SICC able to hear international arbitration matters

Pursuant to the International Arbitration Act (“IAA”), the High Court, of which the SICC is a division, has jurisdiction over certain court matters in relation to international commercial arbitration. The Bill’s main amendment is to provide clarification that the SICC has jurisdiction to hear the same kind of proceedings relating to international commercial arbitration as the High Court.

Parties may choose to commence an action in the SICC for an IAA-related matter, where the conditions in the Rules of Court are satisfied. A case may also be transferred to the SICC from the High Court (and vice versa) in accordance with transfer requirements as set out in the Rules of Court.

Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance, noted in her speech at the Bill’s second reading that allowing the SICC to hear matters relating to international commercial arbitration will increase Singapore’s attractiveness as a seat of arbitration, primarily because the widely acknowledged high quality of the bench hearing arbitration related matters will now be further enhanced by the inclusion of the international judges who will sit on the SICC.

This clarification highlights that applications to, for example, set aside an arbitral award or to enforce an arbitral award can be heard by the SICC. Such applications would be heard by an international tribunal appointed by the SICC consisting of Singapore judges and international judges.

Removal of pre-action certification option

The Bill also removes the option of applying for a pre-action certificate. The pre-action certification procedure was implemented when the SICC was first established to provide parties with the option to certify that the intended action was international and commercial in nature, and could therefore be heard by the SICC. The Bill now removes this option pursuant to feedback that the procedure has been of limited utility.

Representation before SICC by local lawyers only

There is no change in the current practice that only Singapore-qualified lawyers in Singapore law practices may appear before the High Court for IAA and IAA-related matters. This rule applies to the SICC - foreign lawyers, who may be registered to represent parties in an “offshore case” as defined in the Rules of Court, will not be able to appear before the SICC in respect of IAA matters.

Reference materials

The following materials are available at the websites indicated below:

 

Download PDF