Outline of Singapore legal system
and law; Singapore construction law and practice; arbitration
& dispute resolution in Singapore.
Singapore has a system of law
that is based on the "common law system."
"Common law" means unwritten law and legal
customs which had been recognised and given the force
of law. It is "unwritten" in the sense that
the law is not embodied in a code or statute but has
come down in the recorded judgements and decisions of
judges who interpreted it in actual cases involving
actual litigants. These judgments have been recorded
in various records, reports and text-books.
In essence, because of Singapores
colonial past (it was once a British colony), this system
of law is essentially British. In fact, English common
law as at 27 November 1826, (including the law merchant)
equity and statute law is a part of the law of Singapore
by virtue of the Second Charter of Justice (an English
statute passed for Singapore when it was a colony that
was never repealed and applies even after independence).
While common law and equity continued to grow and could
continue to be 'received' into Singapore law it should
be noted that, generally speaking, no English statute
passed after that date could be regarded as automatically
applicable to Singapore.
Aside from the common law there
are some English statutes that are now being "received"
into Singapore law by virtue of the Application of English
Law 1993. Some of the English Acts expressly made applicable
in Singapore are :-
Terms Act 1977;
||Sale of Goods Act
||Supply of Goods
and Services Act 1982;
Act 1987; and
||Carriage of Goods
by Sea Act 1992.
A large component of the law
of contract and tort of Singapore is based on English
common law. English and to a lesser extent, decisions
from other Commonweath countries are freely cited in
the Singapore courts. Indeed, even though they may not
be strictly binding, English cases decided after 1826
are still of relevance in Singapore and have considerable
persuasive authority. No better example can be found
than in the case of Donoghue v Stevenson which is regarded
as the cornerstone of the modern law of negligence.
Few judges or lawyeres would deny that that case which
was decided in 1932 is applicable in Singapore.
Singapore lawyers and judges
are bound by the doctrine of stare decisis (let the
decision stand) which in effect means that the inferior
courts are bound by the decisions of the superior courts).
This doctrine is also known as the doctrine of binding
precedents. Thus, in Singapore law, not only are precedents
(previous decisions) important, but it is also important
to know which decisions are binding, that is they must
be followed and which are persuasive, that is they may
be followed. Whatever the reason may be for the development
of the doctrine, it does ensure that the law is kept
up-to-date through authoritative pronouncements from
the top of the judicial tree. At the same time, stability
within the law is maintained by requiring all other
courts to follow the decisions of higher courts.
Aside from the unwritten, Singapore
also have written laws, passed by an elected Parliament.
Some Singapore legislation, like in other countries,
may be what is called codifying legislation. Such legislation
gathers the common law and other rules of law on a particular
subject into one Act. Thus the Singapore Penal Code
is a piece of of codifying legislation. So is the Code
of Criminal Procedure.
The system of trials is still
the old British system. It is the adversary system.
That is, where the two parties (or opposite parties)
to a dispute actively take part in the trial and the
judge sits more or less as a referee or umpire. This
system is different from the French or Continental system
which is known as the inquisitorial system where the
Judge takes an active part in the proceedings.