The revised Rules of Court have been in the works for a while and were supposed to go into effect by the end of 2021. The new Rules of Court (ROC 2021) were gazetted on December 1, 2021, and were set to take effect on April 1, 2022. The ROC 2021 will essentially govern all civil cases filed on or after April 1, 2022. The launch of the ROC 2021 may bring back unpleasant memories of the abrupt rise in litigation speed that occurred with the introduction of electronic mail and the introduction of e-Litigation in Singapore. Most litigants, on the other hand, will surely appreciate this, as their cases will be resolved more quickly.
The Singapore Rules of Court is an omnibus statute that lays out the procedural rules that apply to civil and appellate proceedings in Singapore. The ROC 2021 took effect on April 1, 2022, and it applies to all civil proceedings and appeals filed after that date. The ROC 2021 is a revision of the Rules of Court’s previous civil procedural structure (2014 Rev Edition). The legal reforms were made in the interest of realizing the following ideals, which are outlined in the ROC 2021:
- Fair access to justice
- Expeditious proceedings
- Cost-effective work that is commensurate to the nature and significance of the action, the complexity of the claim, and the value of the claim
- Efficient use of court resources
- Fair and practical results that are tailored to the parties’ interests
The ROC 2021 has several amendments. This article covers the provisions which introduce new timelines for legal practitioners.
A claimant may file an originating claim (“writ of summons” in the previous ROC) or an originating application (“originating summons” in the previous ROC) to commence proceedings. In most cases, whenever there are material facts in question, the claimant submits an originating claim to begin proceedings. The ROC 2021 mandates service timetables to guarantee that the originating procedures are completed as soon as possible.
Timelines for Originating Processes
An originating claim and originating application are now valid for three months from the date of issue. Except in exceptional circumstances, the Court may only prolong the validity of the original claim or application twice and for no more than three months at a time. An exemption applies to originating claims made in admiralty actions, which are valid for 12 months in the first instance.
If the originating process is being served in Singapore, reasonable efforts shall be made to serve the defendant within 14 days of the originating process being issued. If the originating process is to be served outside of Singapore, reasonable measures shall be taken to serve the originating process within 28 days after its issuance.
If the claimant fails to serve the originating process by the first case conference, the Court may dismiss the action if the claimant has not made reasonable measures to ensure service promptly.
Timelines for Originating Claim
The claimant has 14 or 28 days from the date of issuance of the originating claim to serve the document on the defendant, dependent on whether the originating claim is to be served in Singapore or outside Singapore. The statement of claim must be served to the defendant within 14 days after the originating claim is served. Upon the defendant’s service, they must file and serve:
- A notice of intent to contest or not challenge the claim within 14 days after service of the statement of claim (if served in Singapore) or 21 days (if served outside of Singapore)
- A defence to the originating claim within 21 days (if served in Singapore) or five weeks (if served outside Singapore) following the statement of claim’s service.
Parties must obtain the Court’s permission before filing additional pleadings (such as a reply). Separately, parties can only amend their pleadings with the Court’s permission or by writing an agreement, and no later than 14 days before trial. Unless there are special circumstances, the Court will not allow pleadings to be revised less than 14 days before the trial commences.
Timelines for Originating Application
The claimant must serve the originating application within 14 days after issue (if the defendant is served in Singapore) or 28 days (if the defendant is served outside Singapore) if the originating application is to be served in Singapore. If the defendant wishes to introduce evidence concerning the originating application filed against the defendant, the defendant must file and serve the defendant’s affidavit within 21 days (if the defendant was served in Singapore) or five weeks (if the defendant was served outside Singapore) of receiving the originating application and affidavit.
If a defendant fails to submit and serve his or her affidavit within the deadlines, the Court will continue on the assumption that the defendant does not want to provide evidence, and will hear the Originating Application based on the plaintiff’s affidavit and the parties’ submissions.
After the originating claim or originating application is issued, the Court will schedule a case conference for the matter in eight weeks (if the defendant is served in Singapore) or twelve weeks (if the defendant is served outside Singapore).
Timelines for SAPT
Parties can file separate interlocutory applications at any stage throughout the proceedings under the present ROC. The Court will instruct the parties to merge their interlocutory applications into a single application pending trial (SAPT) under the ROC 2021. Examples of interlocutory applications are:
- Security for costs
- Additional and improved particulars of pleadings
- Correction of pleadings
- Striking out of a portion of the action or the defence
- Production of documents or discoveries
The parties will be given 21 days from the date of the case conference to submit and serve their SAPT and supporting affidavit. After that, the responding party has 21 days to submit and serve their affidavit in response. If the parties want to submit any of the appropriate interlocutory applications following the SAPT, they must get permission from the Court in writing, outlining the nature of the intended application and why it is essential at that stage of the proceedings.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Unlike the previous ROC, the ROC 2021 authorizes the Court to impose fines on parties who fail to meet filing timelines or those who exceed the Court’s page limit. Written submissions in originating applications or opening statements will typically be limited to a certain number of pages.
The imposition of a late filing fee of 50 Singapore dollars for each day (excluding non-court days) beyond the court deadline that a document remains unfiled is one of the penalties that the Court may impose on non-compliant parties. Separately, the Court would levy a late filing charge of at least 500 Singapore dollars per application for interlocutory cases.
Similarly, if any party exceeds the prescribed page limits for written submissions or opening statements, they will be charged a filing fee of 10 Singapore dollars per exceeded page (for the first 10 pages or less) or “N + 10 Singapore dollars” per page (for the next 10 exceeded pages or less), subject to a maximum of 100 Singapore dollars. Here, “N” stands for the fee payable per page for the previous 10 exceeded pages. This fee structure is applicable for matters in the General Division of the High Court.
For matters in the Appellate Division of the High Court or the Court of Appeal, the fees that will be imposed are 20 Singapore dollars per page for the first 10 pages exceeding the limit and “N + 20 Singapore dollars per page” (where “N” is the fee payable per page for the previous 10 pages) for every subsequent 10 pages or less, subject to a maximum of $200 per page.
1) Gazetting: Gazetting is the official publicising of law or other material by the state in its government gazette.
2) Omnibus Bill: An omnibus bill is a proposed law that covers a number of diverse or unrelated topics.
3) Civil Proceedings: Civil proceedings means any judicial proceedings in respect of civil or commercial matters, other than criminal proceedings.
4) Amendment: The meaning of amendment is the process of altering or amending a law or document (such as a constitution) by parliamentary or constitutional procedure.
5) Admiralty Action: Admiralty action means proceedings for the enforcement of a maritime claim.
6) Claimant: The party who brings a court action.
7) Originating Claim: It means that a party (the claimant) has started a civil claim against you (the defendant).
8) Interlocutory Applications: Before a case is ready for trial, parties involved in a civil case may make other applications to the court to further the preparation of their case during the pre-trial stages. These are known as interlocutory applications.
9) Affidavit: It is a document a deponent (the person making an affidavit of what he has witnessed) makes voluntarily, setting out his personal knowledge or belief pertaining to a particular set of facts or events.