Collaboration with the Supreme Court

In a collaboration with the Supreme Court, SMU Law students (under SMU Lexicon) are reporting on selected Court of Appeal judgments, highlighting the significant points, so as to foster greater public awareness of these cases and their implications. The summaries are available on the Supreme Court of Singapore Website, and are reproduced here on SMU Lexicon's website as well.

Jurisdiction over a foreign contemnor: Li Shengwu v Attorney General [2019] SGCA 20

In July 2017, the appellant Li Shengwu published a post on Facebook stating that the “Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report.” The Attorney-General ("AG") considered this statement to be made in contempt of court, specifically scandalising the courts (or “scandalising contempt”). Li argued in the High Court that the courts had no jurisdiction (or authority) over him, as leave to serve the committal papers on him out of jurisdiction had been wrongly given. As such, service should be set aside and not be considered effective. The High Court disagreed. On appeal, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's judgment. 

Conference Notes: A Matter of Trusts

The SICC and SIDRA recently concluded a thought leadership event on dispute resolution options for trust disputes. The key issue was: given the increasing prevalence of alternative forms of dispute resolution (“ADR”), why was there still uncertainty as to whether trust disputes were amenable to ADR (and in particular, arbitration)? The distinguished panellists provided a stimulating discussion of the various conceptual and practical difficulties faced in submitting trust disputes to arbitration.

To plead or not to plead? Qualifying a guilty plea during mitigation: Public Prosecutor v Dinesh s/o Rajantheran [2019] SGCA 27

In Public Prosecutor v Dinesh s/o Rajantheran [2019] SGCA 27, the Court of Appeal (“CA”) answered two questions by the Prosecution, regarding the proper interpretation of section 228(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 2012 Rev Ed) (“CPC”). Under section 228(4), the court “must reject” a party’s guilty plea if it is satisfied that any matter raised in mitigation “materially affects any legal condition” which constitutes the underlying offence.

By-elections for single vacancies in GRCs: Wong Souk Yee v Attorney-General [2019] SGCA 25

In Singapore, there are two types of electoral divisions – Single Member Constituencies (“SMCs”) and Group Representation Constituencies (“GRCs”). The number of seats in a GRC varies from 4 to 6 seats. The GRC scheme was introduced in 1988 with the goal of promoting greater minority representation. As such, each GRC must have at least one Member of Parliament (“MP”) from a minority racial group. In Wong Souk Yee v AG [2019] SGCA 25, the Court of Appeal (“CA”) addressed the question of whether a by-election for all the seats of the GRC is required when only one MP vacates his or her seat in the GRC. The CA held that a by-election is not required under such circumstances.

Amicus Briefs in the WTO: An Uneasy Compromise

An amicus curiae means a “friend of the court” who, though not a party to a lawsuit, provides the court with information or a brief because of his strong interest in the dispute. Since the Appellate Body ("AB") of the World Trade Organisation ("WTO") decided that panels may accept amicus curiae briefs in 1998, there has been extensive debate over this issue for 20 years. One of the chief criticisms from Member states of this decision is that allowing non-state actors to access the Dispute Settlement Mechanism would undermine the “Member-driven” nature of the WTO. Notwithstanding such criticisms, the AB has weathered the storms and continually affirmed the power of the WTO adjudicatory bodies to accept amicus briefs. Ironically, despite this steadfast position, they have displayed great reluctance to actually utilise amicus briefs. This seems to be an uneasy compromise to avoid potential political costs in reaction to the explicit protests from Members. Contrary to commentators that commend the AB for its management of the status quo, this paper argues against this uneasy compromise.

Arbitration: A second chance to object to the tribunal’s jurisdiction – Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Ltd v Avant Garde Maritime Services (Private) Limited [2019] SGCA 33

In Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Ltd v Avant Garde Maritime Services (Private) Limited [2019] SGCA 33, a respondent disagreed with an arbitral tribunal’s ruling that the tribunal had jurisdiction over the respondent’s dispute with the claimant, and did not participate in arbitral proceedings over the dispute. The respondent also did not appeal the ruling within the 30-day period. The Court of Appeal held that the respondent was not precluded by Article 16(3) of the UNCITRAL Model law from raising such objections in setting-aside proceedings.