Limits on the Scope of Judicial Review of Administrative Determinations: Lessons from Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGCA 37  

The Second Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed) mandates the death penalty for drug trafficking of certain quantities of drugs. However, since the 2013 amendments, section 33B of the Act now allows the court to sentence a drug courier to life imprisonment instead: (i) when the Public Prosecutor has issued a “certificate of substantive assistance”, or (ii) when the courier suffers from an “abnormality of mind”. In Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam v Public Prosecutor, the Court of Appeal addressed when the Public Prosecutor can be challenged in making his decision whether to issue a certificate of substantive assistance, and when an offender would be found to be suffering from an abnormality of mind.

Employers’ duty to respond to payment claims outside the scope of the SOPA: Far East Square Pte Ltd v Yau Lee Construction (Singapore) Pte Ltd [2019] SGCA 36

Far East Square Pte Ltd v Yau Lee Construction (Singapore) Pte Ltd [2019] SGCA 36 concerned the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act (Cap 30B, 2006 Rev Ed) (the “SOPA”), which facilitates cash flow in the building and construction industry by providing a quick and efficient means of adjudicating (i.e. providing a formal judgement on) payment disputes with “temporary finality”.

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.