The Singapore International Commercial Court (the “SICC”) was officially launched by the Chief Justice of Singapore on January 5, 2015.
The SICC serves to entrench Singapore’s position as the premier dispute resolution hub in Asia. The SICC, together with the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (the “SIAC”) and the recently launched Singapore International Mediation Centre (the “SIMC”), offers the entire suite of options for resolving international commercial disputes in Singapore and ensures that parties can always have recourse to the most suitable method of dispute resolution.
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The SICC is built upon the strength and efficiency of Singapore’s judicial system, which has been ranked first out of 148 countries in the 2013-2014 World Economic Forum (“WEF”) report with regards to the efficiency of the legal framework in settling disputes.
SALIENT FEATURES OF THE SICC
Proceedings at the SICC are governed by the Singapore Rules of Court (in particular, the newly introduced Order 110) and the SICC Practice Directions. The salient features are:
- Jurisdiction The SICC is constituted under the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (the “SCJA”) as a statutory division of the High Court and is situated in the Supreme Court of Singapore. The SICC has the jurisdiction to hear matters of an ‘international’ and ‘commercial’ nature, where the parties have submitted to the SICC’s jurisdiction under a written jurisdiction agreement. Such an agreement may be entered into at any time, including at the time of the contract between the parties or even after the dispute has arisen. Alternatively, proceedings may be transferred from the High Court of Singapore to the SICC, if the High Court considers it more appropriate for the case to be heard in the SICC.
- Judiciary The Judicial Panel of the SICC is comprised of the Chief Justice of Singapore, some senior judges of the Supreme Court of Singapore, retired Supreme Court judges, as well as prominent judges and retired judges from various countries.
- Representation by Foreign Lawyers Parties may, under certain circumstances, be represented by foreign lawyers who are registered with the SICC Register of Foreign Lawyers. These circumstances include a joint request by the parties before the action, or where a case is an ‘offshore case’—i.e. one that has no substantial connection with Singapore.
- Judicial Notice of Foreign Law The SICC may, on the application of a party, dispense with the need for foreign law to be pleaded and proved as a matter of fact. Instead, the SICC may take judicial notice of foreign law with the assistance of oral and written legal submissions, supported by relevant authorities. This is aligned with the practice in international arbitration and leads to time and cost savings in dispute resolutions before the SICC.
- Confidentiality Proceedings before the SICC will generally be held in public. However, the Court may, on the application of a party, direct that the hearing be heard in camera and for the Court file to be sealed. Before making the order, the SICC will consider if the case has no substantial connection to Singapore, and whether the parties had made any agreement that proceedings should be confidential.
- Third-Party Procedure The SICC has the power to join third parties to the proceedings regardless of the third parties’ consent and irrespective of whether such third party is a party to the agreement conferring jurisdiction on the SICC.
- Appellate Review Decisions of the SICC may be appealed to the Singapore Court of Appeal, and the appellate judges will be drawn from SICC’s panel of judges. Parties who submit to the jurisdiction of the SICC may agree further to limit or vary the scope for appeal, including the removal of the right to appeal altogether.
ENFORCEMENT OF SICC JUDGMENTS
SICC judgments, like judgments of the Singapore Supreme Court, may be enforced in other jurisdictions through reciprocal enforcement provisions such as the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act and the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act. Alternatively, the judgment may be enforced in commonwealth jurisdictions via a common law action on a judgment debt.
Parties may also use a model SICC dispute resolution clause that provides that the parties waive their rights to defend against any action based on an SICC judgment in any jurisdiction.
Building upon the pro-business policies and the stable political climate in Singapore, the SICC firmly entrenches Singapore’s status as the premier dispute resolution hub in Asia.
This article is courtesy of P. Balachandran, a Senior Consultant with Robert Wang & Woo LLP in Singapore. Mr. Balachandran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.