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Proposed Reform of the Singapore International Commercial Court

In his keynote address to the Inaugural SIAC Congress 2014, Law Minister K Shanmugam spoke of the Singapore government’s proposal to form an International Commercial Court on the basis of recommendations of the Singapore International Commercial Court Committee  (“the Committee”). Formed at the direction of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon on 23 May 2013 to assess the viability of such a court in Singapore, the Committee reasoned that cross-border investment and trade into and within Asia is expected to grow at a rate that outpaces the rest of the world, and it follows that the legal services sector in the Asia Pacific will grow, as well as the number and complexity of cross border disputes.

Asia’s projected growth as a trade and investment hub, in addition to Singapore’s existing institutional advantages and reputation as a centre for international arbitration, brought the Committee to conclusion, that an International Commercial Court could become the ‘premium forum’ for court-based commercial dispute resolution within and beyond Asia.

  Most notably, it was the Committee’s recommendation that the jurisdiction of an international court would include cases:

  1. where parties have consented to use the SICC after their dispute has arisen;
  2. where parties are parties to a contract giving the SICC jurisdiction over any disputes arising out of that contract; or
  3. that are within the High Court’s jurisdiction which are transferred to the SICC by the Chief Justice and
  4. that foreign (appropriately registered) representation be allowable where cases have no substantial connection to Singapore.

The Committee also proposed that the Court would form a division of the Singapore High Court and part of the Supreme Court.  A panel of judges would be constituted, comprising existing Supreme Court Judges, as well as Associate Judges appointed for fixed periods and appointed to cases on an ad hoc basis.  The Court would have its own rules and practice directions, which follow international best practices for commercial dispute resolution.

The Minister explained that the Court ‘would appeal to those who for example, have non-arbitrable disputes and who would like the availability of an appeal.’

Together with the foreshadowed Singapore International Mediation Centre, the Singapore International Commercial Court, along with the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, the Minister commented that Singapore will ‘…provide a complete suite of dispute resolution offerings to parties, especially those with cross-border disputes.’

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