Legislative Amendments for Future-Ready Courts
26 Jul 2021 Posted in Press releases
- The Ministry of Law (“MinLaw”) introduced the Courts (Civil and Criminal Justice) Reform Bill (the “Bill”) for First Reading in Parliament today.
- The Bill will introduce transformational changes to our court system to support digital transformation plans and efforts to keep our legal system efficient and accessible for all. The Bill will also implement the recommendations of the Civil Justice Commission and the Civil Justice Review Committee1 which support our efforts to establish Singapore as a leading dispute resolution hub.
- Mr Edwin Tong, Second Minister for Law, said: “Our courts play a critical role in upholding the rule of law, through the fair administration of justice. Together with the operationalisation of the Appellate Division of the High Court, and the forthcoming implementation of the new Rules of Court, the Courts Reform Bill will ensure that our courts are future-ready and equipped to meet the evolving needs of society. We thank the Judiciary and members of the Bar for working with MinLaw on shaping the future of our court system.”
Key Amendments in the Bill
Supporting the Digital Transformation of the Judiciary
The Bill will support the digital transformation plans of the Judiciary by empowering the courts to leverage technology to conduct proceedings in a flexible manner via electronic means such as live video-link.2 This will reduce the costs of litigation and enhance convenience for court users.
(a) Remote hearings: In a remote hearing, participants, including the judge, who are in different physical locations may appear via electronic means such as live video-link. For example, expert witnesses residing overseas may give evidence without travelling here.
(b) Documents-only hearings: In appropriate cases, the court may conduct a documents-only hearing, and make a determination on the basis of written submissions. This will be cost-effective as parties will not unnecessarily be required to appear before a Judge to make oral arguments. Documents and arguments can be placed before the court by appropriate electronic means.
- In considering how proceedings should be conducted, the court will consider the facts and circumstances of each case, and ensure that proceedings are conducted in a manner that is fair to all parties.
Simplifying Court Terminology
- The Bill will simplify court terminology across our statute books to ensure that our laws are accessible to the public and easy to understand. For example, terms such as “in camera”, “plaintiff” and “subpoena” will be amended to “in private”, “claimant” and “order to attend court” respectively.
Implementing Civil Justice Reform Proposals
- The Bill will implement a number of recommendations of the Civil Justice Commission and Civil Justice Review Committee to reform our civil justice system. These include empowering the courts to order parties to attempt to resolve their disputes by amicable resolution, for example through negotiation or mediation. The remaining Civil Justice Reform proposals will be implemented through the new Rules of Court, which are targeted to be introduced by the end of the year.
Interim Relief in Aid of Foreign Court Proceedings
- The Bill will empower the General Division of the High Court to grant interim relief in aid of foreign court proceedings, even where there are no substantive proceedings in Singapore. This will enhance Singapore’s standing as a constructive player in international litigation and support our efforts to promote Singapore as a leading dispute resolution hub.
- The Bill will also introduce various technical amendments to clarify court processes and promote court efficiency.
MINISTRY OF LAW
26 July 2021
1. The full response to the feedback received on the recommendations of the Civil Justice Commission and the Civil Justice Review Committee can be accessed at http://www.go.gov.sg/civil-justice-reforms-response↩
2. This builds on the temporary measures that were put in place in April 2020 under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act. Those measures enabled the wider use of remote communication technology (such as hearings conducted via video-link) in court proceedings, so that the administration of justice could continue even amidst safe distancing measures.↩
Last updated on 26 July 2021