Court of Appeal of Singapore - Constitution of The Court

Constitution of The Court

The Supreme Court of Singapore is the nation's superior court of record. It is superior in the sense that its jurisdiction to hear civil and criminal cases is unlimited compared to the Subordinate Courts of Singapore, and it hears appeals from lower courts. As a court of record, it keeps a perpetual record of its proceedings. The Court of Appeal is the upper division of the Supreme Court, the lower one being the High Court.

The Court of Appeal is made up of the Chief Justice, who is the President of the Court, and the Judges of Appeal. The Chief Justice may appoint Judges of Appeal as vice-presidents of the Court. As of 6 November 2012, the Chief Justice was Sundaresh Menon and the Judges of Appeal were Chao Hick Tin (2 August 1999 – 10 April 2006; reappointed 11 April 2008), Andrew Phang Boon Leong (appointed 28 February 2006) and V.K. Rajah (11 April 2007). Chao J.A. was appointed Vice-President of the Court with effect from 18 April 2008.

When hearing civil and criminal matters, the Court of Appeal usually sits with three Judges of Appeal, one of whom is the Chief Justice. However, the Court may also sit with a greater uneven number of Judges of Appeal. This is done in cases of unusual difficulty or importance. As of December 2010 the Court had sat twice with a bench of five judges. The more recent case was the 1995 decision Public Prosecutor v. Tan Meng Khin, in which the Court overruled its own decision handed down the previous year that had set out a different interpretation of section 40(3) of the Penal Code.

The Court may also sit with just two Judges of Appeal in appeals in civil matters against interlocutory orders and other orders apart from judgments handed down after trials commenced by writs of summons or hearings commenced by other originating processes such as originating summons. High Court judges may be requested by the Chief Justice to sit as judges of the Court of Appeal to hear specific appeals. Judges of Appeals cannot sit as members of the Court when appeals are against judgments or orders made by them, convictions made or a sentences passed by them, or questions of law reserved by them for the Court of Appeal to decide when they were acting as High Court judges. If the Court feels it requires assistance in a particular case, it may summon persons of skill and experience in the matter to which the proceedings relate to sit with the Court and act as assessors.

Matters before the Court are decided according to the opinion of the majority of the members of the Court hearing the case. If there are only two judges hearing an appeal and they disagree, the appeal is dismissed and the decision appealed against stands.

The schedule of the Court's sittings is determined every year by the Chief Justice. In general, the Court sits throughout the year except during the mid-year and end-year court vacations (usually end of May to end of June, and the beginning of December to the beginning of January respectively). The Chief Justice also appoints the places where the Court sits. When the Supreme Court moved from the Old Supreme Court Building and City Hall Building at 1 and 3 Saint Andrew's Road respectively to the present Supreme Court Building at 1 Supreme Court Lane, the Chief Justice formally appointed the new building as a place where the Court of Appeal sits by way of a notification dated 20 June 2005.

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