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Contents  

Long Title

Part I PRELIMINARY

Part II CONSTITUTION

Part III APPOINTMENTS, POWERS AND DUTIES

Part IV JURISDICTION

Civil Jurisdiction of District Courts

Criminal Jurisdiction of District Courts

Jurisdiction of Magistrates’ Courts

Transfers of Civil Proceedings

Jurisdiction of Juvenile Courts

Part V ADMINISTRATION

Part VI SUPPLEMENTAL

THE SCHEDULE Forms of Oaths and Affirmations

Legislative History

Comparative Table

 
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Subordinate Courts Act
(CHAPTER 321)

(Original Enactment: Act 19 of 1970)

REVISED EDITION 2007
(31st July 2007)
An Act relating to the constitution, jurisdiction and powers of the subordinate courts and the administration of justice therein.
[1st January 1971]
PART I
PRELIMINARY
Short title
1.  This Act may be cited as the Subordinate Courts Act.
Interpretation
2.  In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires —
“action” means a civil proceeding commenced by summons or in such other manner as may be prescribed by Rules of Court;
“commissioner for oaths” means a commissioner for oaths appointed under section 68 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap. 322);
“Coroner” has the same meaning as in section 2(1) of the Coroners Act 2010;
“District Court limit” means —
(a)
in sections 26(a) and 27, $3 million or such other amount as may be specified by an order under section 30; and
(b)
in any other section, $250,0001 or such other amount as may be specified by an order under section 30;
“judicial officer” means a District Judge, Magistrate, or registrar;
“Magistrate’s Court limit” means $60,0002 or such other amount as may be specified by an order under section 52(3);
2  O 2 (S 263/99) — Subordinate Courts (Variation of Magistrate’s Court Limit) Order
“prescribed” means prescribed by Rules of Court;
“Public Prosecutor” includes a Deputy Public Prosecutor;
“registrar” means the registrar of the subordinate courts and includes a deputy registrar;
“Rules of Court” means Rules of Court made under this Act and includes forms;
“seal” includes stamp.
[34/73; 15/93]
PART II
CONSTITUTION
Subordinate courts
3.
—(1)  There shall be within Singapore the following subordinate courts with such jurisdiction as is conferred by this Act or any other written law:
(a)
District Courts;
(b)
Magistrates’ Courts;
(c)
Juvenile Courts;
(d)
Coroners’ Courts;
(e)
Small Claims Tribunals.
[27/84]
(2)  The Small Claims Tribunals shall have such jurisdiction as is conferred by the Small Claims Tribunals Act (Cap. 308) or any other written law.
(3)  Except as provided in the Small Claims Tribunals Act, no provision of this Act or Rules of Court shall apply to a Small Claims Tribunal.
(4)  The Coroners’ Courts shall have such jurisdiction as is conferred by the Coroners Act 2010 and any other written law.
Court houses
4.  The President may constitute under appropriate names so many subordinate courts as he shall think fit, and shall appoint some place or places as the court house or court houses of each such court.
Seals of courts
5.  The subordinate courts shall have and use as occasion may require a seal or seals of such nature as the Chief Justice may, by notification in the Gazette3, prescribe.
3  N 1, 1997 Ed. (S 230/75).
Process of courts
6.  Subject to Rules of Court, all writs, summonses, warrants, orders, notices and other mandatory processes issued by the subordinate courts shall be signed by a judicial officer and shall bear the seal of the court issuing the same.
[3/87]
Sittings of subordinate courts
6A.
—(1)  Subject to subsection (2), every subordinate court shall sit on every day of the year except on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
[8/98; 2/2007]
(2)  Notwithstanding subsection (1), a judicial officer may lawfully sit on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday or during a vacation authorised under section 61 if —
(a)
the Chief District Judge, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice, has directed the judicial officer to sit on that day or during that vacation; or
(b)
in the opinion of the judicial officer, the business to be despatched is extremely urgent.
[8/98; 2/2007]
(3)  Every subordinate court shall sit at such times as the Chief Justice may from time to time appoint.
[8/98]
Sittings in camera, etc.
7.
—(1)  The place in which any subordinate court is held shall be deemed an open and public court to which the public generally may have access.
(2)  A subordinate court shall have power to hear any proceedings or any part thereof in camera if the court is satisfied that it is expedient in the interests of justice, public security or propriety, or for other sufficient reason to do so.
(2A)  A subordinate court may, in any matter or proceeding or any part thereof tried or held or to be tried or held before it, if satisfied that it is expedient in the interests of justice, public safety, public security or propriety, or for other sufficient reason to do so, order that —
(a)
the name, address or photograph of any witness; or
(b)
any evidence or any other thing likely to lead to the identification of such witness by a person other than the party to that matter or proceeding,
which is contained in any court document intended to be produced before the court, be removed or be sufficiently redacted.
(3)  A subordinate court may at any time order that no person shall —
(a)
publish the name, address or photograph of any witness in any matter or proceeding or any part thereof tried or held or to be tried or held before it, or any evidence or any other thing likely to lead to the identification of any such witness; or
(b)
do any other act which is likely to lead to the identification of such a witness.
(4)  Any person who acts in contravention of any order under subsection (2A) or (3) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
Contempt
8.
—(1)  The subordinate courts shall have power to punish for contempt of court where the contempt is committed —
(a)
in the face of the court; or
(b)
in connection with any proceedings in the subordinate courts.
[4/96]
(2)  Where contempt of court is committed in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (1), the court may impose imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding $2,000 or both.
[4/96]
(3)  The court may discharge the offender or remit the punishment if the court thinks it just to do so.
[4/96]
(4)  In any case where the contempt is punishable as an offence under section 175, 178, 179, 180 or 228 of the Penal Code (Cap. 224), the court may, in lieu of punishing the offender for contempt, refer the matter to the Public Prosecutor with a view to instituting criminal proceedings against the offender.
[4/96]
PART III
APPOINTMENTS, POWERS AND DUTIES
Appointments and qualifications of District Judges
9.
—(1)  A District Court shall be presided over by a District Judge appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Chief Justice.
(2)  For the purposes of the administration of this Act, the President may, on the recommendation of the Chief Justice, appoint a Chief District Judge who shall have seniority over all other District Judges.
(3)  No person shall be appointed to be or to act as a District Judge unless he has been for not less than 5 years a qualified person as defined in section 2 of the Legal Profession Act (Cap. 161).
(4)  Any person appointed to be or to act as a District Judge shall, although the period of his appointment has expired or his appointment has been revoked, sit as a District Judge for the purpose of giving judgment or otherwise in relation to any case heard by him.
(5)  Every person appointed to be or to act as a District Judge shall be ex officio a Magistrate.
Appointments and qualifications of Magistrates
10.
—(1)  The President may, on the recommendation of the Chief Justice, appoint any fit and proper person to be a Magistrate .
(2)  No person shall be appointed to be or to act as a Magistrate unless he has been for not less than one year a qualified person as defined in section 2 of the Legal Profession Act.
Justices of the Peace
11.
—(1)  The President may, by warrant under his hand, appoint fit and proper persons to be Justices of the Peace.
(2)  Justices of the Peace shall have and may exercise such powers and perform such duties of a Magistrate as may be conferred on them by any written law.
Appointments and qualifications of registrar and deputy registrars of subordinate courts
12.
—(1)  There shall be appointed by the Chief Justice a registrar and so many deputy registrars as may be necessary for the subordinate courts.
(2)  No person shall be appointed to be or to act as registrar unless he is a qualified person as defined in section 2 of the Legal Profession Act, except that the Chief Justice may, in his discretion, appoint any person who is not a qualified person under that Act.
(3)  The registrar and the deputy registrars shall be ex officio commissioners for oaths.
Powers and duties of deputy registrars
13.  Subject to Rules of Court, all the powers and duties conferred and imposed on the registrar may be exercised by a deputy registrar.
Subordinate court officers
14.  There shall be attached to the subordinate courts such commissioners for oaths, interpreters, clerks, bailiffs, process servers and other officers as, from time to time, may appear to the Chief Justice to be necessary for the administration of justice and the due execution of all powers and duties which are vested in the subordinate courts.
Powers and duties of certain subordinate court officers
15.  The bailiffs and process servers shall —
(a)
execute all writs, summonses, warrants, orders, notices and other mandatory processes of the subordinate courts given to them;
(b)
make a return of the same together with the manner of the execution thereof to the court from which the process issued; and
(c)
arrest and receive all such persons and property as are committed to the custody of the subordinate courts.
Solicitor, etc., authorised to act as bailiff
15A.
—(1)  Subject to such directions as may be given by the Chief District Judge, the registrar may authorise a solicitor or a person employed by a solicitor to exercise the powers and perform the duties of a bailiff during such period or on such occasion as the registrar thinks fit and subject to such terms and conditions as the registrar may determine.
[15/93]
(2)  Section 68(2) shall apply to a solicitor or person authorised under subsection (1) as it applies to an officer of a subordinate court.
[15/93]
Special powers of bailiffs
16.  The bailiffs in executing any writ of seizure and sale or any other writ of execution or of distress may effect an entry into any building, and for that purpose, if necessary, may break open any outer or inner door or window of the building or any receptacle therein, using such force as is reasonably necessary to effect an entry.
Oaths of judicial officers and certain other officers
17.
—(1)  All judicial officers and such other officers of the subordinate courts as may be required by the Chief Justice shall, before exercising the functions of their respective offices, take and subscribe the appropriate oath of office and allegiance set out in the Schedule.
(2)  The oath referred to in subsection (1) may be taken and subscribed before the Chief District Judge or a Judge of the Supreme Court.
(3)  Where the oath is taken before the Chief District Judge, he shall —
(a)
enter in the record of his court that the oath was duly administered and taken before him; and
(b)
transmit a certified copy of the entry to the Registrar of the Supreme Court.
Appointments and revocations to be gazetted
18.  All appointments and revocations made under this Part shall be published in the Gazette.
PART IV
JURISDICTION
Civil Jurisdiction of District Courts
General civil jurisdiction
19.
—(1)  A District Court exercising civil jurisdiction shall be a court of record.
(2)  Subject to subsections (3) and (4), a District Court shall have all the jurisdiction of the High Court to hear and try any action in personam where —
(a)
the defendant is served with a writ of summons or any other originating process —
(i)
in Singapore in the manner prescribed by Rules of Court; or
(ii)
outside Singapore in the circumstances authorised by and in the manner prescribed by Rules of Court; or
(b)
the defendant submits to the jurisdiction of a District Court.
(3)  Subject to section 28A of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap. 322) and any order under subsection (1) thereof, a District Court’s jurisdiction under subsection (2) shall not include —
(a)
any supervisory jurisdiction or revisionary jurisdiction;
(b)
any jurisdiction relating to the judicial review of any act done or decision made by any person or authority, including the issue of any of the following prerogative orders:
(i)
a Mandatory Order;
(ii)
a Prohibiting Order;
(iii)
a Quashing Order;
(iv)
an Order for Review of Detention;
(c)
any jurisdiction vested exclusively in the High Court, in any other subordinate court, or in any judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative tribunal, by written law; and
(d)
any jurisdiction expressly excluded by written law.
(4)  Subject to sections 22 and 23, a District Court’s jurisdiction under subsection (2) shall not include jurisdiction to hear and try any action where —
(a)
the amount claimed in the action exceeds the District Court limit; or
(b)
any remedy or relief sought in the action is in respect of a subject-matter the value of which exceeds the District Court limit.
(5)  A District Court’s jurisdiction to hear and try any civil proceeding which comes within the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court constituted under the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Cap. 3) shall be the same as the High Court as if section 17A of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap. 322) applies to the District Court with the modification that any reference therein to the High Court shall be read as a reference to a District Court.
[20/99]
(6)  Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (2), a District Court shall have such jurisdiction as is vested in it by any other written law.
[15/93]
20.  [Repealed by Act 31/2010 wef 01/01/2011]
21.  [Repealed by Act 31/2010 wef 01/01/2011]
Abandonment of part of claim to give District Court jurisdiction
22.
—(1)  Where the amount claimed in an action exceeds the District Court limit, or any remedy or relief sought in an action is in respect of a subject-matter the value of which exceeds the District Court limit, and a District Court would have jurisdiction under section 19(2) to hear and try the action if the amount or value, as the case may be, did not exceed the District Court limit, the plaintiff may abandon the excess amount or that remedy or relief, as the case may be, and thereupon a District Court shall have jurisdiction under section 19(2) to hear and try the action, provided that the plaintiff —
(a)
shall not recover in the action an amount exceeding the District Court limit; and
(b)
shall not obtain in the action any remedy or relief in respect of a subject-matter the value of which exceeds the District Court limit.
(2)  Where a District Court has jurisdiction to hear and try an action by virtue of this section, the judgment of the court in the action shall be in full discharge of all demands in respect of the cause of action.
[15/93]
Jurisdiction by agreement in certain actions
23.  Where the parties to an action agree, by a memorandum signed by them or their respective solicitors, a District Court shall have jurisdiction under section 19(2) to hear and try the action notwithstanding that —
(a)
the amount claimed in the action exceeds the District Court limit; or
(b)
any remedy or relief sought in the action is in respect of a subject-matter the value of which exceeds the District Court limit.
Transfer of counterclaim from District Court to High Court
24.  [Repealed by Act 26 of 2005]
Jurisdiction in actions for recovery of immovable property
25.  Without prejudice to the generality of section 19, a District Court shall have jurisdiction under section 19(2) to hear and try any action for the recovery of immovable property with or without a claim for rent or mesne profits and whether or not the title to the property is in dispute, where —
(a)
the annual value of the property appearing in the Valuation List prepared under section 10 of the Property Tax Act (Cap. 254) does not exceed the District Court limit;
(b)
the annual rent payable by the tenant does not exceed the District Court limit or the monthly rent payable by the tenant does not exceed one-twelfth of the District Court limit; or
(c)
if the annual value, annual rent or monthly rent cannot be ascertained, the last transacted price of the property does not exceed 10 times the District Court limit.
[15/93]
Equity jurisdiction
26.  Without prejudice to the generality of section 19, a District Court shall have jurisdiction under section 19(2) to hear and try any of the following proceedings:
(a)
proceedings for the administration of the estate of a deceased person, where the amount or value of the estate does not exceed the District Court limit;
(b)
proceedings for the execution of any trust or for a declaration that a trust subsists, where the amount or value of the property subject, or alleged to be subject, to the trust does not exceed the District Court limit;
(c)
proceedings for foreclosure or redemption of any mortgage or for enforcing any charge or lien, where the amount owing in respect of the mortgage, charge or lien does not exceed the District Court limit;
(d)
proceedings for the specific performance, or for the rectification, delivery up or cancellation of any agreement for the sale, purchase or lease of any property, where, in the case of a sale or purchase, the purchase money or, in the case of a lease, the amount or value of the property does not exceed the District Court limit;
(e)
proceedings relating to the maintenance or advancement of an infant, where the amount or value of the property of the infant does not exceed the District Court limit;
(f)
proceedings for the dissolution or winding up of any partnership (other than a limited liability partnership registered under the Limited Liability Partnerships Act 2005), whether or not the existence of the partnership is in dispute, where the amount or value of all the assets of the partnership does not exceed the District Court limit;
(g)
proceedings for relief against fraud or mistake where the damage sustained or the amount or value of the estate or fund in respect of which relief is sought does not exceed the District Court limit.
[15/93; 5/2005]
Jurisdiction to grant probates
27.  A District Court shall have jurisdiction to grant probate or letters of administration in respect of the estate and effects within Singapore of any deceased person, where the estate and effects in respect of which the grant is applied for, exclusive of what the deceased was possessed of or entitled to as a trustee and not beneficially, but without deducting anything on account of the debts due or owing from the deceased, do not exceed in value the District Court limit; and may alter, revoke or annul the same.
[6/76; 3/86; 15/93]
Jurisdiction to issue writ of distress
28.  A District Court shall have jurisdiction under the Distress Act (Cap. 84) in all cases where the amount of rent distrained or to be distrained does not exceed the District Court limit.
[15/93]
Jurisdiction to grant relief by interpleader
29.
—(1)  Without prejudice to the generality of section 19, a District Court shall have jurisdiction under section 19(2) to grant relief by way of interpleader —
(a)
where a bailiff of a District Court is charged with the execution of any writ or order of the Court and claim is made to any money or other movable property taken or intended to be taken in execution of the writ or order, or to the proceeds or value of any such property, by any person other than the person against whom the writ or order was issued or made; and
(b)
where the person seeking relief is under liability for any debt, money, or other movable property of which the amount or value does not exceed the District Court limit and for or in respect of which he has been or expects to be sued by 2 or more parties making adverse claims thereto.
[6/76; 3/86; 15/93]
(2)  If it appears to the High Court that any proceedings in the High Court by way of interpleader, in which the amount in dispute or value of the subject-matter does not exceed the District Court limit, may be more conveniently tried in a District Court, the High Court may at any time order that the proceedings be transferred to a District Court.
[6/76; 3/86; 15/93]
Variation of District Court limit
30.  The President may, after consulting the Chief Justice, by order vary the District Court limit mentioned in any of the foregoing provisions.
[15/93]
Powers of District Court same as High Court
31.
—(1)  A District Court, as regards any action within its jurisdiction, shall in any proceedings before it —
(a)
grant such relief, redress or remedy or combination of remedies, either absolute or conditional; and
(b)
give such and the like effect to every ground of defence or counterclaim equitable or legal,
as ought to be granted or given in the like action by the High Court and in as full and ample a manner.
[15/93]
(2)  Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), a District Court shall, as regards any action within its jurisdiction, have power —
(a)
to grant an injunction whether or not any other relief is or could be claimed;
(b)
to make binding declarations of rights whether or not any consequential relief is or could be claimed; and
[15/93]
(c)
to order medical examination of a person who is a party to any proceedings where the physical or mental condition of the person is relevant to any matter in question in the proceedings.
Powers of District Judge in chambers
32.  A District Judge shall have power in any civil proceeding pending in a District Court to make any order or to exercise any authority or jurisdiction which, if it related to a proceeding pending in the High Court, might be made or exercised by a Judge of the High Court in chambers.
[15/93]
Assessors
33.
—(1)  In any proceedings, a District Judge may, if he thinks fit on the application of any party, or on his own motion, summon to his assistance, in such manner as may be prescribed by Rules of Court, one or more persons of skill and experience in the matter to which the proceedings relate who may be willing to sit with the District Judge and act as assessors.
[15/93]
(2)  Subject to subsection (3), the remuneration of assessors for sitting under this section shall be at such rate as may be prescribed by Rules of Court and shall be costs in the proceedings unless otherwise ordered by the District Judge.
[15/93]
(3)  Where one or more assessors are summoned for the purposes of this section otherwise than on the application of a party to the proceedings, the remuneration of any such assessor shall be payable out of moneys provided by Parliament.
[15/93]
(4)  Where any person is proposed to be summoned as an assessor, objection to him, either personally or in respect of his qualification, may be taken by any party in the prescribed manner.
[15/93]
Jurisdiction of registrar
34.  Any jurisdiction and powers conferred on a District Court by this Act or any other written law relating to civil proceedings may be exercised to the extent authorised by this Act or any other written law or Rules of Court, by the registrar.
Division of causes of action
35.  A cause of action shall not be divided for the purpose of bringing 2 or more actions.
Examination of witnesses abroad in District Court cases
36.
—(1)  The High Court shall, on application made in the manner prescribed by Rules of Court, have the same power to issue a request or an order to examine witnesses abroad for the purpose of civil proceedings in a District Court as it has for the purpose of an action or matter in the High Court.
(2)  Where such an application is made, the High Court may, if it thinks fit, order the proceedings to be transferred to the High Court.
General power to transfer from High Court to District Court
37.  [Repealed by Act 26 of 2005]
General power to transfer from District Court to High Court
38.  [Repealed by Act 26 of 2005]
Costs of certain actions commenced in High Court which could have been commenced in a subordinate court
39.
—(1)  Where an action is commenced in the High Court which could have been commenced in a subordinate court, then, subject to subsections (3) and (4), the plaintiff —
(a)
if he recovers a sum not exceeding the District Court limit, shall not be entitled to any more costs of the action than those to which he would have been entitled if the action had been brought in a District Court; and
(b)
if he recovers a sum not exceeding the Magistrate’s Court limit, shall not be entitled to any more costs of the action than those to which he would have been entitled if the action had been brought in a Magistrate’s Court.
[15/93]
(2)  For the purposes of subsection (1)(a) and (b), a plaintiff shall be treated as recovering the full amount recoverable in respect of his claim without regard to any deduction made in respect of contributory negligence on his part or otherwise in respect of matters not falling to be taken into account in determining whether the action could have been commenced in a subordinate court.
[15/93]
(3)  Where a plaintiff is entitled to costs on the subordinate courts scale only, the Registrar of the Supreme Court shall have the same power of allowing any items of costs as a District Judge or Magistrate would have had if the action had been brought in a subordinate court.
[15/93]
(4)  In any action, the High Court, if satisfied —
(a)
that there was sufficient reason for bringing the action in the High Court; or
(b)
that the defendant or one of the defendants objected to the transfer of the action to a subordinate court,
may make an order allowing the costs or any part of the costs thereof on the High Court scale or on the subordinate courts scale as it may direct.
[15/93]
(5)  This section shall not apply in the case of any proceedings by the Government.
[15/93]
(6)  This section shall not affect any question as to costs if it appears to the High Court that there was reasonable ground for supposing the amount recoverable in respect of the plaintiff’s claim to be in excess of the amount recoverable in an action commenced in a subordinate court.
[15/93]
Costs in cases transferred from one court to another
40.  [Repealed by Act 26 of 2005]
Allocation of proceedings to High Court
41.
—(1)  The Chief Justice may, where he considers it necessary or expedient to improve efficiency in the administration of justice and to provide for more speedy disposal of proceedings commenced in the District Courts, by order direct such class or classes or description of proceedings as may be specified in the order to be heard and determined by the High Court.
[15/93]