Key Takeaways from the Court of Appeal’s Decision on Apparent Judicial Bias in Singapore

Key Takeaways from the Court of Appeal’s Decision on Apparent Judicial Bias in Singapore


In a recent judgment, the Court of Appeal of Singapore addressed the critical issue of apparent bias within the judiciary. The case, Moad Fadzir Bin Mustaffa v Public Prosecutor [2024] SGCA 18, presented a significant examination of whether Justice Tay Yong Kwang should recuse himself due to alleged bias. Here are the essential points from the judgment:

Background of the Case

Moad Fadzir was convicted of trafficking a controlled drug and sentenced to death in 2019. His conviction and sentence were upheld by the Court of Appeal, which included Justice Tay. Subsequently, Moad Fadzir filed multiple applications, including one under Section 394H of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) for permission to review the Court of Appeal’s decision. His first review application was dismissed by Justice Tay, who was also part of the original appellate bench.

Grounds for Recusal

The primary argument for Justice Tay’s recusal was based on his previous involvement in the case. The applicant contended that Justice Tay had formed a negative impression of him, thus potentially prejudicing any further applications he might make.

Prosecution’s Response

The Prosecution argued that the grounds for recusal were without merit. They emphasized that adverse rulings against a litigant do not constitute grounds for apparent bias unless accompanied by exaggerated or intemperate language or clear factual or legal errors.

Court’s Analysis

Legal Standard for Apparent Bias

The court reiterated that the test for apparent bias is whether a reasonable and fair-minded person, knowing all the relevant facts, would have a reasonable suspicion that a fair trial was not possible. The public’s perception of justice being done is paramount.

Unanimity in Judicial Decisions

The court highlighted that the judgment in question was a unanimous decision of three judges, not solely Justice Tay. This collective judicial decision further diluted the claim of individual bias.

Procedural Practices

The court noted that applications under Section 394H are typically heard by judges who were part of the original decision-making panel. This practice is consistent with the provisions of the CPC and the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, thereby legitimizing Justice Tay’s involvement.

Nature of Dissenting Opinions

The court rejected the notion that a judge’s dissenting opinion in a previous case automatically implies bias in subsequent cases. The principle that judges must apply the law as declared by the majority view, regardless of past dissent, was firmly upheld.


The court unanimously dismissed the motion for recusal, stating that there was no reasonable suspicion or apprehension of bias. They emphasized the seriousness of allegations of judicial bias and the potential damage such claims could inflict on public confidence in the justice system.


This judgment reinforces the robustness of Singapore’s judicial processes and the high threshold required to establish apparent bias. It underscores the judiciary’s commitment to impartiality and the principles of fair trial, which are cornerstones of the legal system.

For legal practitioners and scholars, this case serves as an instructive example of the rigorous standards applied in evaluating claims of judicial bias, ensuring the integrity and fairness of judicial proceedings in Singapore.

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