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Media Release: New electronic option to effect substituted service of court documents for civil proceedings

1.   From 1 September 2022, an additional electronic method to effect substituted service of court documents for civil proceedings via the Singpass app Inbox will be introduced on the eLitigation platform by the Singapore Courts (SG Courts). 

2.   Currently, litigants may seek to use substituted service when attempts at ‘personal service’ of court documents have been unsuccessful. Methods of substituted service frequently used by litigants include posting of court documents on the front door or gate of the recipient’s premises, Advice of Receipt (AR) registered post to the address of the recipient and electronic means (such as electronic mail or Internet transmission). Advertisement in the newspaper is also used in some cases.

3.   Subject to obtaining permission from the court, subscribers of the eLitigation platform can opt for the additional method of substituted service whereby the recipient will receive a “push” notification through the Singpass app Inbox in the “For Action” category, informing the recipient of the service of court documents.

4.   This enhancement is part of the SG Courts’ efforts to drive legal transformation and innovation to better serve the needs of court users in today’s digital society. The recipients (for example, defendants or respondents to a claim or application) will benefit from:

(i)   a discreet and direct way of being notified electronically of the service of court documents. Recipients can privately view the relevant documents electronically, after authenticating with Singpass. Some other methods of substituted service may inadvertently allow other persons to view the documents; and

(ii)  assurance that the documents viewed using the “push” notification through the Singpass app Inbox are authentic as the notification is an official communication transmitted through secured and authenticated channels.

Benefits to the litigant carrying out substituted service include:

(i)   potential cost savings;

(ii)  enhanced speed of effecting substituted service; and

(iii) ability to carry out service where the address of the recipient may not be known or may have changed.

5.   Generally, to apply for substituted service, there must have been two prior reasonable attempts at personal service (if required) of court documents. The applicant must also explain why the proposed methods of substituted service would be effective in bringing notice of the legal proceedings to the recipients. If the court grants the application, the applicant can use the approved methods of substituted service to serve the court documents.

6.   For substituted service, there is no general requirement to obtain prior consent from the recipient. Newspapers, posting on the front door, or delivery by email or instant messaging can all be effective even if the recipient did not expect that such a method could be used to reach him or her.

7.   Where there is a successful delivery of the notification to the recipient’s Singpass app Inbox, but it is not opened/read within a stipulated time (currently set at an hour), an SMS will be sent to the recipient’s mobile number registered with Singpass (if any) to inform him or her about the unread notification. The SMS serves only as a reminder and it does not affect the effectiveness of the original notification to the recipient’s Singpass app Inbox.

8.   If the recipient does not have the Singpass app installed, the delivery will be marked as being unsuccessful and the court documents cannot be said to have been served on the recipient via the Singpass app Inbox. The applicant can then use a different form of substituted service that has been approved by the court. If the recipient has a mobile number registered with Singpass, an SMS will also be sent to the mobile number, providing the contact information of the law firm that had attempted to effect substituted service of court documents on the recipient.

9.   The SG Courts have progressively leveraged Singpass products, including the use of Singpass as the main authentication mechanism for case management systems, and the use of Sign with Singpass to allow users to digitally sign contracts, agreements and other legal documentation. These initiatives help to further increase efficiency for both the courts and the litigants.

10.  Mr Tan Ken Hwee, Chief Transformation and Innovation Officer for the Singapore Judiciary said, “Technology is transforming how we do things – the Singapore Courts will continue to embrace the appropriate use of technology to enhance the administration of justice. The National Digital Identity set of solutions will help the courts to achieve the vision of a future-ready court, keeping our legal system efficient and improving access to justice.”

11.  Mr Lim Seng Siew, a lawyer with OTP Law Corporation, added, “The use of the Singpass app Inbox, when personal service is not possible, will allow claimants to serve and defendants to receive court documents more securely and with more privacy than other methods of substituted service. It will also reduce the cost of effecting service. I look forward to using it in suitable cases.”

12.  Please click here for the infographics for the key highlights on the notifications in the Singpass app Inbox (PDF 495 KB).

Issued by: SG Courts
Date: 17 August 2022

About SG Courts
The Singapore Courts – comprising the Supreme Court, State Courts and Family Justice Courts – is one of the three constitutional pillars of government in Singapore. Known collectively as SG Courts, we are integrated and coordinated to serve as one judiciary. As an organ of state, the judiciary’s function is to independently administer justice. Headed by the Chief Justice, we are a forward-looking, innovative and trusted judiciary. Built on judicial professionalism and transparency, we maintain the highest standards of integrity in safeguarding our community. We pledge to ensure equal and continuous access to justice, and we are committed to deliver justice that is fair and impartial.


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