1. The new Rules of Court 2021 (“ROC 2021”) are intended to modernise the litigation process, enhance the efficiency and speed of adjudication, and maintain costs at reasonable levels. They are the culmination of recommendations by the Civil Justice Commission constituted by the Chief Justice and the Civil Justice Review Committee established by the Ministry of Law.
2. Subject to certain exceptions (e.g. proceedings in the Singapore International Commercial Court⁽¹⁾), ROC 2021 will apply to all civil proceedings, including appeals, commenced on or after 1 April 2022. The Rules of Court (Cap. 322, R 5, 2014 Ed.) (“ROC 2014”) will continue to apply to all civil proceedings, including appeals, filed before 1 April 2022. ROC 2021 will be supplemented by new Practice Directions from the Supreme Court and the State Courts respectively.
3. Under ROC 2021, the Ideals are what the Court must seek to achieve when making orders or giving directions. All parties have the duty to assist the Court and to conduct their cases in a manner which will help to achieve the Ideals ⁽²⁾ .
4. There are five Ideals which ROC 2021 seeks to achieve, namely⁽³⁾:
(a) fair access to justice;
(b) expeditious proceedings;
(c) cost-effective work proportionate to —
(i) the nature and importance of the action;
(ii) the complexity of the claim as well as the difficulty or novelty of the issues and questions it raises; and
(iii) the amount or value of the claim;
(d) efficient use of court resources; and
(e) fair and practical results suited to the needs of the parties.
5. The Ideals are also invoked to guide the Court’s exercise of certain powers.
(a) Where there is no rule governing a matter, what the Court does must be consistent with the Ideals. In exercising any power, the Court may impose any condition or give such directions that are appropriate⁽⁴⁾.
(b) Where there is non-compliance with any rule, any practice directions or any order or direction by the Court, the Court may dismiss, stay or set aside the proceedings, and give an appropriate judgment or order, even though the non-compliance could be compensated by costs, if the non-compliance is inconsistent with any of the Ideals in a material way⁽⁵⁾.
6. ROC 2021 uses simplified court terminology that is accessible to the public and easy to understand. Some key changes in court terminology are set out in the table below.
|ROC 2014||ROC 2021|
|Amicus curiae||Independent counsel|
|Application for Leave||Application for Permission|
|Consent interlocutory judgment (where Defendant is not contesting writ)||Judgment when notice of intention not to contest all or some claims is filed|
|Ex parte||Without notice|
|Ex parte originating summons||Originating application without notice|
|Ex parte summons||Summons without notice|
|Garnishee order||Enforcement order for attachment of a debt|
|In camera||In private|
|Judgment in default of appearance||Judgment for failing to file notice of intention to contest or not contest|
|Leave of Court||Permission of Court|
|Memorandum of appearance||Notice of intention to contest or not contest|
|Originating summons||Originating application|
|Offer to Settle||Offer of amicable resolution|
|Order of committal |
Warrant for committal
|Pre-trial conference||Case conference|
|Review||Appeal (in appeal chapters)|
|Stay of execution||Stay of enforcement|
|Subpoena||Order to attend Court or produce documents|
|Taxation (of costs)||Assessment (of costs)|
|Writ of execution||Enforcement order|
|Writ of possession||Enforcement order for possession of property|
|Writ of seizure and sale||Enforcement order for seizure and sale of property|
|Writ of summons||Originating claim|
|Working day||Any day other than a “non-court day”|
7. A writ of summons will be an originating claim under ROC 2021. Similarly, an originating summons will be an originating application. Unless otherwise provided in ROC 2021 or any other written law, a claimant may commence court proceedings by an originating claim or an originating application. The principles behind whether proceedings should be begun by originating claim or originating application remain largely similar.
E. Overview of the Progress of an Action
8. The following flowchart provides a quick overview of the progress of a typical case under ROC 2021⁽⁶⁾.
9. The validity of an originating claim and originating application is now three months beginning with its date of issue⁽⁷⁾. Except in a special case, the Court may extend the validity of the originating claim or originating application only twice and by not more than three months at a time⁽⁸⁾.
10. An exception applies for originating claims issued in admiralty proceedings, which are valid in the first instance for 12 months⁽⁹⁾.
11. One new requirement introduced by ROC 2021 is that while an originating claim may be generally endorsed with a concise description of the claim⁽¹⁰⁾, this would be the exception as ROC 2021 envisages the originating claim being served together with a statement of claim⁽¹¹⁾. Where a defendant is served with a generally-endorsed originating claim, the statement of claim must still be served within 14 days after the originating claim has been served⁽¹²⁾.
12. Where a defendant, served with an originating claim, wishes to contest a claim, the defendant must file and serve a notice of intention to contest or not contest within 14 days after the statement of claim is served on the defendant where it is served in Singapore⁽¹³⁾ and 21 days where the defendant is served out of Singapore⁽¹⁴⁾.
13. The defendant must then file and serve a defence to the originating claim within 21 days after the statement of claim is served on the defendant where it is served in Singapore⁽¹⁵⁾ and 5 weeks where the defendant is served out of Singapore⁽¹⁶⁾. If the defendant fails to file and serve a defence within the prescribed time, the claimant may apply for judgment in default of defence⁽¹⁷⁾.
14. If the defendant is challenging the jurisdiction of the Court, the defendant need not file and serve a defence on the merits, but must file and serve a defence stating the ground on which the defendant is challenging the jurisdiction of the Court⁽¹⁸⁾.
15. After the defendant has filed its defence or the claimant has filed its defence to counterclaim, no further pleadings may be filed unless the Court otherwise orders⁽¹⁹⁾. If the claimant merely wishes to deny assertions in the defence, no reply needs to be filed⁽²⁰⁾, and if a reply is needed the claimant must seek the approval of the Court⁽²¹⁾.
16. Parties can no longer amend pleadings once before the close of pleadings without the permission of the Court, because the period by which pleadings are deemed to be closed is no longer calculated. Instead, pleadings may only be amended with the permission of the Court⁽²²⁾, or by written agreement between the parties not less than 14 days before the commencement of the trial⁽²³⁾. The Court must not allow any pleading to be amended less than 14 days before the commencement of the trial except in a special case⁽²⁴⁾.
17. An originating application filed by a claimant must be supported by affidavit⁽²⁵⁾. Where a defendant wishes to introduce evidence in an originating application, the defendant must file and serve the defendant’s affidavit within 21 days after the originating application and supporting affidavit is served if service is in Singapore⁽²⁶⁾ and within 5 weeks if service is effected out of Singapore ⁽²⁷⁾.
18. If the defendant is challenging the jurisdiction of the Court, the defendant need not file and serve the defendant’s affidavit on the merits but must file and serve the defendant’s affidavit stating the ground on which the defendant is challenging the jurisdiction of the Court⁽²⁸⁾.
19. If a defendant does not file and serve the defendant's affidavit within the timelines, the Court will proceed on the basis that the defendant does not wish to introduce evidence and will hear the Originating Application based on the claimant's affidavit and the parties' submissions.
20. Except in a special case, no further affidavits may be filed after the defendant’s affidavit on the merits⁽²⁹⁾.
21. ROC 2021 requires that reasonable steps be taken to serve an originating process expeditiously⁽³⁰⁾. Where the originating process is to be served in Singapore, reasonable steps to serve the defendant should be taken within 14 days after the originating process is issued⁽³¹⁾. Where the originating process is to be served out of Singapore, reasonable steps to serve the originating process should be taken within 28 days after the issue of the originating process⁽³²⁾.
22. Where the claimant fails to serve the originating process by the first case conference, the Court may dismiss the action if it is not satisfied that the claimant has taken reasonable steps to effect service expeditiously ⁽³³⁾.
23. Personal service may now be effected by a litigant who is not legally represented or such a person’s employee, or any other person that the Registrar may allow in a particular case or generally⁽³⁴⁾.
24. Ordinary service may be carried out by email at an email address provided by the party to be served without the need for a prior Court direction authorising service in this manner⁽³⁵⁾.
25. Where a claimant applies for and obtains an order for substituted service, substituted service must be effected within 14 days after the order of the Court⁽³⁶⁾.
26. Service out of Singapore of an originating process or other court document may be approved by the Court if it can be shown that the Court has the jurisdiction or is the appropriate court to hear the action⁽³⁷⁾.
The Court’s approval is not required for service out of Singapore if such service is allowed under a contract between the parties⁽³⁸⁾. The Court’s approval is also not required for service of court documents
other than the originating process if the Court’s approval has been granted for service of the originating process out of Singapore(39).
29. When service is effected after 5 pm on any particular day, it is deemed to have been effected on the following day⁽42⁾. Non-court days are excluded in the calculation of time only where the period in question is 6 days or less⁽43⁾. If the period in question is “7 days”, this means 7 calendar days including non-court days.
30. Parties may agree on an extension of time for serving, filing or amending any pleading or other document only once, by consent in writing, for a maximum period of 14 days without an order of the Court⁽44⁾. All other extensions of time require an order of the Court.
31. The Court may impose a late filing fee of $50 for each day that a document remains unfiled after the expiry of the period within which the document is required to be filed, excluding non-court days⁽45⁾.
32. Where there is a prescribed page limit under ROC 2021, the Court may allow the page limit to be exceeded in special circumstances and upon payment of the fees and additional fees prescribed for the filing of pages in excess of the page limit ⁽46⁾.
33. Generally speaking, for matters in the General Division of the High Court, the fees that will be imposed are (a) $10 per page for the first 10 pages exceeding the limit and (b) N + $10 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 $100 per page(47). To illustrate, as an opening statement in an originating claim is subject to a page limit of 25 pages, the Court may allow a party to file an opening statement of 50 pages in special circumstances and upon payment of the following fees:
(a) For pages 26 to 35: $10 per page;
(b) For pages 36 to 45: $20 per page; and
(c) For pages 46 to 50: $30 per page.
34. Generally speaking, for matters in the Appellate Division of the High Court or the Court of Appeal, the fees that will be imposed are (a) $20 per page for the first 10 pages exceeding the limit and (b) N + $20 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(48).
*This Digest highlights certain key features and points of note, which are intended to assist court users in navigating the Rules of Court 2021 (“ROC 2021”), and serves to provide general information only. Reference should always be made to the relevant provisions in the ROC 2021, any applicable written law and practice directions, and any applicable guidance that may be found in case law. This, and the other digests, do not, in any way, affect the Court’s exercise of its discretion. The Court may, based on the circumstances of each case, depart from the digests. The digests are not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice, and may be revised from time to time.
⁽¹⁾ Please refer to the Singapore International Commercial Court Rules 2021.
⁽²⁾ O 3 rr 1(3) and (4) of ROC 2021.
⁽³⁾ O 3 r 1(2) of ROC 2021.
⁽⁴⁾ O 3 rr 2(2) and (3) of ROC 2021.
⁽⁵⁾ O 3 r 2(4) of ROC 2021.
⁽⁶⁾ The flowchart does not apply where the Court orders the parties to file and exchange affidavits of evidence-in-chief after pleadings have been filed and served but before any exchange of documents. Please see Digest 4 for more information.
⁽⁷⁾ O 6 r 3(1) of ROC 2021.
⁽⁸⁾ O 6 r 3(4) of ROC 2021.
⁽⁹⁾ O 33 r 2(9) of ROC 2021.
⁽¹⁰⁾ O 6 r 5(3) of ROC 2021.
⁽¹¹⁾ O 6 r 5(4) of ROC 2021. Different rules may apply to admiralty proceedings under O 33 of ROC 2021.
⁽¹²⁾ O 6 r 5(5) of ROC 2021.
⁽¹³⁾ O 6 r 6(1) of ROC 2021.
⁽¹⁴⁾ O 6 r 6(2) of ROC 2021.
⁽¹⁵⁾ O 6 r 7(1) of ROC 2021.
⁽¹⁶⁾ O 6 r 7(2) of ROC 2021.
⁽¹⁷⁾ O 6 r 7(7) of ROC 2021.
⁽¹⁸⁾ O 6 r 7(4) of ROC 2021.
⁽¹⁹⁾ O 6 r 10(2) of ROC 2021.
⁽²⁰⁾ O 6 r 9(1) of ROC 2021.
⁽²¹⁾ O 6 r 10(1) of ROC 2021.
⁽²²⁾ O 9 r 14(1) of ROC 2021.
⁽²³⁾ O 9 r 14(5) of ROC 2021.
⁽²⁴⁾ O 9 r 14(3) of ROC 2021.
⁽²⁵⁾ O 6 r 11(1) of ROC 2021.
⁽²⁶⁾ O 6 r 12(1) of ROC 2021.
⁽²⁷⁾ O 6 r 12(2) of ROC 2021.
⁽²⁸⁾ O 6 r 12(3) of ROC 2021.
⁽²⁹⁾ O 6 r 12(6) of ROC 2021.
⁽³⁰⁾ O 2 r 3 of ROC 2021.
⁽³¹⁾ O 6 r 5(6) and O 6 r 11(4) of ROC 2021.
⁽³²⁾ O 6 r 5(7) and O 6 r 11(5) of ROC 2021.
⁽³³⁾ O 9 r 5(1)(a) of ROC 2021.
⁽³⁴⁾ O 7 r 2(2) of ROC 2021.
⁽³⁵⁾ O 7 r 3(b) of ROC 2021.
⁽³⁶⁾ O 7 r 7(3) of ROC 2021.
⁽³⁷⁾ O 8 r 1(1) of ROC 2021.
⁽³⁸⁾ O 8 r 1(3) of ROC 2021.
(39) O 8 r 1(4) of ROC 2021.
(40) O 8 r 1(2) of ROC 2021.
(41) Paragraph 63 of the Supreme Court Practice Directions 2021. For the purposes of showing that there is a good arguable case that there is sufficient nexus to Singapore, please refer to any of the non-exhaustive list of factors (as may be applicable) set out in paragraph 63(3) of the Supreme Court Practice Directions 2021, in the supporting affidavit.
⁽42⁾ O 7 r 8(2) of ROC 2021.
⁽43⁾ O 3 r 3(6) of ROC 2021.
⁽44⁾ O 3 r 4(3) of ROC 2021.
⁽45⁾ O 3 r 2(4)(e) of ROC 2021.
⁽46⁾ See, eg, O 9 r 25(15) of ROC 2021.
(47) See, eg, Items 10(a) and 10(b) of Part 1 of the Fourth Schedule.
(48) See, eg, Item 28 of Part 1 of the Fourth Schedule.