Basic Facts About Singapore’s Legal System
The legal system of Singapore is based on the English common law system. Major areas of law such as administrative law, contract law, equity and trust law, property law, and tort law have decisions primarily made by judges. However, certain aspects of such laws have been modified to some extent by statutes. Other areas of law in Singapore such as criminal law, company law, and family law are almost completely statutory.
Judges in Singapore refer to either relevant Singaporean cases or English case law if the issues involved pertain to a traditional common-law area of law or involve the interpretation of Singaporean statutes based on English enactments or English statutes which are applicable in Singapore. Some judges also consider decisions made in major Commonwealth nations such as Australia and Canada; this is especially true if their approach is different from that of English law.
Certain Singapore statutes are not based on English enactments; they are instead based on legislation from other jurisdictions. In such situations, court decisions from those jurisdictions with regard to the original legislation are usually examined. For this reason, Indian law is sometimes consulted for the interpretation of the Evidence Act and the Penal Code because these laws are based on Indian statutes.
According to the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC), Singapore is the least corrupt country in Asia and one of the least corrupt in the world. Singapore’s efficient and transparent legal system has done much to allow the country to flourish, whether economically or otherwise.
While many consider Singapore to be a country restricted by many rules, it is nevertheless one of the world’s safest nations for living as well as the conducting of business. Singapore’s extremely low crime rates are evidence of this fact.
Singapore’s low crime rate and high level of safety have caused many to desire a move to the country. If you are someone who would like to work and live in Singapore, we at Paul Hype Page & Co will be able to assist you. We will ensure that you will receive an Employment Pass (EP) which will in turn enable you to move to Singapore and begin living and working there.
Due to the fact that Singapore is a former British colony, the legal system there is based on English common law. All Singaporean citizens are equal in the eyes of the law. Singapore’s laws are based on the constitution, legislation, subsidiary legislation, and legal decisions made by judges.
The constitution protects the fundamental rights of all individuals. It comprises the fundamental principles and basic framework for the three organs of state; these are the executive (the president, prime minister, and other ministers who are responsible for government affairs and to be held accountable to parliament), the legislature (the president, parliament, and parliament’s legislative authority responsible for the enactment of legislation), and the judiciary (courts of law which operate separately from the executive and legislature).
Legislation or statutory laws refers to the written laws enacted by the parliament of Singapore or other bodies that had the power to pass such laws in the past in Singapore.
Subsidiary legislation or subordinate legislation refers to the written laws made by ministers, government agencies, or statutory boards. Subsidiary legislation is made under a parent statute.
Judge-made law refers to court judgements which are considered a source of law. Most decisions made by judges related to property law, contract law, and trust law are considered to be forms of judge-made law.
History of Singapore’s Legal System
Singapore joined the Federation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963. At this point, it would no longer be a colony of the British Empire. The legal system of Singapore would be affected by the enactment of the Malaysia Act 1963 (UK), the Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore (State Constitutions) Order in Council 1963, and the Malaysia Act 1963 (Malaysia). The 1963 Order in Council provided that all laws in force in Singapore continued to apply subject to any amendments or exceptions which might be necessary to adapt them to the new constitution as well as the Malaysia Act. Due to the fact that Singapore was now a state in a larger federation, the Singapore Legislative Assembly became the Legislature of Singapore. It now only had the power to make laws regarding certain matters described in the Malaysian Federal Constitution. Article 75 of the Federal Constitution stated the following: “If any state law is inconsistent with a federal law, the federal law shall prevail and the state law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”
From 1963 to 1965, many Malaysian laws including Federated Malay States Enactments as well Malayan Union and Federation of Malaya Ordinances were extended to Singapore. Some of these statutes continue to apply in Singapore today; however, they are generally modified from their original forms.
According to the Malaysia Act 1963, the judicial power of Malaysia would be vested in a Federal Court, a High Court in Malaya, a High Court in Borneo, and a High Court in Singapore. This new structure was made official on March 16, 1964, through the Courts of Judicature Act 1964. This act replaced the Supreme Court of the Colony of Singapore with the High Court of Malaysia in Singapore. The High Court in Singapore would now only have power within the territory of the State of Singapore.
When Singapore became independent in 1965, the country’s parliament left its judicial system unchanged. Therefore, between 1965 and 1969, the High Court in Singapore was part of the Malaysian court system. Then, in 1969, the constitution was amended to establish the Supreme Court of Singapore. It replaced the Federal Court of Malaysia with respect to Singapore. However, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London would retain its status as Singapore’s court of final appeal.
The Supreme Court would be divided into two divisions. Its upper division would consist of the Court of Appeal and the Court of Criminal Appeal, which would manage civil and criminal matters respectively. Its lower division would be the High Court of Singapore.
In 1970 the subordinate courts of Singapore were re-organized. Since then, the Subordinate Courts of Singapore have consisted of the District Courts, the Magistrates’ Courts, the Juvenile Courts, and the Coroners’ Courts.
Steps to restrict appeals to the Privy Council were first taken in 1989. In that year, the law was changed to make it so that appeals to the Privy Council would only be permitted in a civil case if all the parties involved agreed to such an appeal before the Court of Appeal would hear about such a case. In criminal cases, an appeal to the Privy Council could only be made if the death penalty would be involved and if the judges of the Court of Criminal Appeal were not unanimous in their decision.
In 1993, the previous setup of a separate Court of Appeal and Court of Criminal Appeal was abolished. In their place a unified Court of Appeal was created to address both civil and criminal appeals alike. Judges of Appeal who were to be appointed to the Court of Appeal would no longer be required to engage in High Court work. The Chief Justice would serve as the President of the Court of Appeal. The establishment of the permanent Court of Appeal subsequently led the abolition of all appeals to the Privy Council; this ruling took effect on April 8, 1994. The Court of Appeal also issued a Practice Statement on July 11, 1994. It stated that while the Court would treat its own prior decisions and those of the Privy Council as binding, if it were to be the case that adherence to such decisions “would cause injustice in a particular case or constrain the development of the law in conformity with the circumstances of Singapore”, it would regard itself as free to depart from such decisions. It added that this course of action would be taken rarely because of the danger of infringement upon contractual, proprietary, and other legal rights. Today, the Court of Appeal of Singapore is the most important court in Singapore.
Singapore’s legal system was confirmed as independent through the repeal of Section 5 of the Civil Law Act on November 12, 1993, via the Application of English Law Act 1993. The Act aims to clarify the extent of the application of English laws in Singapore. It states that the common laws of England, including its principles and rules of equity, will continue to be part of Singapore law only if it is applicable to the circumstances of Singapore and its inhabitants. English laws in Singapore are subject modifications as circumstantially required. Only the English statutes listed in the Schedules to the Act in Singapore. No other English laws are part of Singapore law.
How Laws in Singapore Are Formulated
Introduction and First Reading
The formulation of laws in Singapore begins with the first reading of a bill. During the first reading of a bill, the long title of the bill is read aloud. The bill will then be submitted to the Clerk of Parliament who will then print and circulate the bill to the Members of Parliament. After the first reading, all bills will be published in the Government Gazette Bills Supplement.
After a bill has been read a second time, it is presented to a parliamentary committee of the unless parliament chooses to commit it to a select committee. The committee has the power to amend the bill if it deems such to be necessary. During the second reading, the Minister involved explains the purpose of the bill as well as its provisions. Members of Parliament then debate the bill. After the bill has been considered by a parliamentary committee, the bill is then reported from the committee of the whole parliament, where it will be read for a third time.