Response to Public Feedback on the Civil Justice Reforms
11 Jun 2021 Posted in Press releases
- The Ministry of Law (“MinLaw”) and the New Rules of Court Implementation Team1 have carefully considered feedback received from the public consultation on the Civil Justice Reform proposals, and have issued a response to the feedback today.
- The feedback will be incorporated into the new Rules of Court where applicable. Legislative amendments will be introduced in Parliament later this year to support the new Rules of Court, which will be operationalised by end 2021. The new Rules will position Singapore’s civil justice system to meet future demands and challenges, and improve access to justice while maintaining efficiency.
- MinLaw records its appreciation to the Civil Justice Commission (“CJC”) and the Civil Justice Review Committee (“CJRC”)2, and to all respondents who contributed feedback. We seek the continued support of the Bar as we work to enhance the administration of justice in Singapore.
Summary of Feedback
- The public consultation was conducted from 26 October 2018 to 31 January 2019. MinLaw received 43 responses, mostly from members of the Bar who gave feedback directly or through the Law Society of Singapore. Stakeholders from financial institutions and non-profit organisations, as well as members of the public, also contributed feedback. Overall, there was broad support for most of the Civil Justice Reform proposals, which respondents deemed timely and practical. Where applicable, the feedback has been incorporated into the final proposals which are set out in detail below.
Single Application Pending Trial (“SAPT”)
- The CJC had proposed that in general, all interlocutory applications be made in a single application. However, respondents shared that parties may not be able to foresee all the interlocutory relief they require, and that some interlocutory matters may not be compatible with each other as they arise at different stages of proceedings.
- MinLaw and the New Rules of Court Implementation Team recognise that certain interlocutory applications, such as applications for summary judgment, striking out of the whole action or defence, or stay of the whole action, may have to be dealt with before the SAPT, to save costs. As such, the draft Rules will be amended to exclude these applications from the SAPT.
Exchange of Affidavits of Evidence-in-Chief (“AEICs”)
- The CJC and CJRC had proposed that the court may order AEICs of witnesses to be filed and exchanged before the production of documents. Respondents raised concerns that this would front-load costs, which would in turn reduce the likelihood of parties reaching a pre-trial settlement. It may also tip the scales in favour of parties with deeper pockets, and prejudice defendants who would have less preparation time.
- Having considered the feedback, the draft Rules will be amended to expressly state that the court may order AEICs to be filed simultaneously or in any sequence.
Production of Documents
Initial obligation to produce documents
- The Bar supported the CJC’s proposal to narrow the scope of discovery. However, respondents indicated that the initial obligation to disclose documents ought to include an obligation to disclose adverse documents. Parties may otherwise have an incentive to hide or destroy adverse documents, or there may be an increase in requests for further documents.
- To address the concerns, the draft Rules will be amended such that parties will be required to disclose all known adverse documents in their possession or control. Known adverse documents include documents which a party ought reasonably to know are adverse to his or her case, that the party could have knowledge about through reasonable checks and searches.
Private or internal correspondence
- The CJC had recommended that a party’s private or internal correspondence shall not be discoverable except in a special case and with permission of the court. However, respondents expressed some concerns about losing access to private documents which are adverse to a party’s case, that could reveal the true state of affairs.
- The draft Rules will therefore empower the court to order the production of private or internal correspondence in a special case, or if such correspondence are known adverse documents.
- A number of respondents expressed concerns regarding the proposal for parties to agree and appoint a single joint expert. In general, respondents felt that the current rules pertaining to the adducing of expert evidence are sufficiently robust, and that the proposal may increase costs and satellite litigation.
- We have carefully reviewed the feedback, and have refined the proposal such that parties are encouraged to agree on a single expert, as far as possible. We expect that a single joint expert will suffice in the majority of straightforward cases.
Calculation of Time
- Respondents raised concerns with the proposal to include non-court days (i.e. Saturdays, Sundays, or public holidays) in the calculation of time for a period that is seven days or more, and noted that this may result in operational challenges.
- To address this, all seven-day time periods stipulated in the draft Rules will be increased to 14-day periods.
- Respondents provided detailed feedback on the proposal to introduce a quantum-based scale fixing recoverable party-and-party (“P&P”) costs for liquidated and quantifiable claims.
- We have studied the feedback carefully and will hold this proposal in abeyance for the time being. We will continue to work closely with the Bar on this matter.
- Please refer to Annex A for a summary of the Civil Justice Reform proposals and the adjustments to be made. The full response to the feedback received can be accessed at (http://www.go.gov.sg/civil-justice-reforms-response).
MINISTRY OF LAW
11 June 2021
1. The New Rules of Court Implementation Team is chaired by Supreme Court Judge, Justice Ang Cheng Hock, and comprises representatives from the Supreme Court and the State Courts.↩
2. The CJC and CJRC were set up by the Chief Justice and MinLaw respectively to come up with proposals to reform and modernise Singapore’s civil justice system. The CJRC’s key recommendations cover reforms to pre-trial procedure, trial and appeals procedure and post-trial procedure, while the CJC was tasked with the mandate to transform the litigation process by modernising it and enhancing efficiency and speed of adjudication while maintaining costs at reasonable levels.↩
Last updated on 11 June 2021