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About the legal system

The Singapore courts are part of the Judiciary, which is one of the 3 branches of the state:

  • The Judiciary enforces and interprets the laws. It comprises the court system and all officers working for the courts. The Judiciary is impartial and decides cases according to the law. It is responsible for ensuring that all are equal before the law and have access to justice. The Judiciary is led by the Chief Justice.
  • The Executive formulates policy and administers the running of the state. It comprises the Cabinet and the various public service agencies under their charge. The Executive is sometimes also known as the government. It is led by the Prime Minister, who is advised on legal matters by the Attorney-General.
  • The Legislature makes the laws. It is the highest law-making authority in the country. The Legislature comprises Parliament and all the members that sit within it. The Legislature is led by the Speaker of Parliament.

This three-branch structure is known as separation of powers. It is designed to ensure that there are checks and balances to prevent abuse of power. This arrangement is set by the Constitution, which is the most fundamental law in Singapore.

The President is the head of state and not a member of any of the 3 branches. The President's authority is required by the Legislature at the final stage of passing legislation.

The Attorney-General's Chambers assist both the Executive (as the government's legal advisor) and the Legislature (as parliamentary drafters). The Attorney-General is also concurrently the public prosecutor and is responsible for bringing all public prosecutions in Singapore, independently and without influence from any of the 3 branches of the state.

About the sources of law in Singapore

The Constitution is one of the sources of law in Singapore. It is the supreme law, which means that all other laws passed must not conflict with it.

Other sources of law include:

  • Legislation (also known as statutes): These consist of Acts of Parliament and subsidiary legislation passed by the government. These laws are published on Singapore Statutes Online.
  • Common law (also known as judge-made law): Law developed from cases decided by judges. Judges do not make the law at their own discretion. Judge-made law is usually an expansion or elaboration of existing legal principles, which occurs when required by a particular case. Judge-made law cannot conflict with either the Constitution or laws passed by the Parliament.

All Singapore citizens are equal in the eyes of the law. This supports the rule of law, which is a legal principle that requires everyone, including the government, to obey the law. Judges must apply the law impartially, as it is and not as they think it should be. When a judge makes a decision, the judge is not saying what is right or wrong, but only what the position is according to the law.

The courts must be impartial and cannot provide legal advice. Parties should seek legal advice on their options instead.

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