Well-developed and business friendly Singapore has positioned itself as a popular neutral third party venue for resolving disputes between parties from different jurisdictions. As a dispute resolution venue, it offers sophisticated commercial jurisprudence together with commercially experienced and sound counsel and judges. With the anticipated introduction of the Singapore International Commercial Court (the "SICC"), Singapore continues to leverage on this reputation.
From 3 December 2013 to 31 January 2014, the Singapore Ministry of Law conducted a public consultation on the recommendations of the SICC Committee in its report. The government has welcomed the recommendations of the SICC Committee.
The SICC aims to handle commercial disputes with little or no connection to Singapore, and will be established as a division of the Singapore High Court, to deal with three categories of cases:
- Where parties have consented to use the SICC after their dispute has arisen;
- Where parties' contract confers the SICC jurisdiction to resolve any contractual disputes; and
- Where cases commenced in the Singapore High Court are transferred to the SICC by the Chief Justice.
The SICC will be governed by its own set of rules and practice directions, which will follow international best practices for commercial dispute resolution. The SICC Committee have stated in particular that reference will be taken from procedure of institutions such as the English Commercial Court.
SICC proceedings will generally be heard by a single Judge and shall take place in open court. However, special rules may apply for cases which have no substantial connection to Singapore. Where in such cases parties agree that it is desirable to maintain confidentiality, the hearing may be conducted in camera (in private) with other appropriate measures taken such as the redaction of judgments.
The SICC Judges can take judicial notice of foreign law and apply foreign law to determine the issues in dispute. In cases that have no substantial connection to Singapore, foreign counsel may appear before the SICC if they are registered with the SICC.
In the event that there is a dispute over whether the SICC can hear the dispute, the SICC will have the jurisdiction to hear and determine this question. The SICC may also decline to admit cases that are clearly inappropriate. Cases that are not admitted to the SICC but fall within the jurisdiction of the Singapore High Court may also be transferred to the Singapore High Court.
Judgments of the SICC may be enforced in other jurisdictions through reciprocal enforcement provisions or through a common law action on the judgment debt. Parties may also waive their right to defend against an action based on an SICC judgment through SICC dispute resolution clauses in their agreements.
Additionally, during a recent Parliamentary sitting, the Singapore Law Minister, Mr K. Shanmugam also stated that Singapore was studying the feasibility of signing the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements. This convention, which has yet to enter into force, aims to assure contracting parties that when they agree on a court to hear a business dispute, the agreement and any resulting judgment will be recognised and enforced internationally. Signatories to the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements currently include the European Union (except Denmark) and the United States of America.
With the SICC, and the introduction of the Singapore International Mediation Centre expected to be launched later this year, Singapore is primed to be the ideal location for the resolution of international commercial disputes.