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Singapore proposals for international commercial court presented to parliament

Bills aimed at amending legislation to create the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) have been tabled in Singapore’s parliament.

Singapore’s Ministry of Law said the SICC, which could be set up as early as 2015, is intended to address the increase in international commercial litigation work arising from the growth in cross-border trade and investment in Asia.

The ministry said: “Building on the success of the arbitration sector, the SICC will enhance Singapore’s position as the leading venue for dispute resolution in Asia and is expected to attract more legal work to Singapore.”

According to the ministry, the SICC would target cases that “would not otherwise be heard in Singapore, such as cross-border commercial disputes governed by foreign law”. “By drawing these cases to Singapore, Singapore law firms will benefit, just as they have from the strong growth in the arbitration sector,” the ministry said.

The benefits of the SICC would include involvement in “high-value complex cross-border disputes, exposure to eminent international jurists, as well as opportunities to work with foreign litigators and their clients”, the ministry said.

The SICC would hear international commercial disputes including those governed by foreign law.  The SICC would also be a division of the Singapore High Court, which would mean that SICC judgments could be enforced as judgments of the Supreme Court of Singapore, the ministry said.

A “diverse” panel of judges would include eminent international judges and judges from the existing Supreme Court. All proceedings would be open unless either of the parties requested hearings to be held in camera, the ministry said.

The SICC would also offer the flexibility for parties to seek leave of court to apply “alternative rules of evidence” which the parties “may be more familiar with”. There would also be the option for parties to appoint foreign-qualified lawyers to represent them in court in accordance with the Rules of Court and a new ‘Part IVB’ of Singapore’s Legal Profession Act.

“The circumstances under which a foreign-qualified lawyer may appear in the SICC, namely, cases with no substantial connection to Singapore, or to address the court on matters of foreign law, will be set out in subsidiary legislation,” the ministry said.

Mohan Pillay of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture partner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: “The SICC is an inspired extension of Singapore’s growing status as an international arbitration hub.”

Pillay said: “Its flexibility with foreign judges and counsel will add to its ‘international’ badging and appeal. Combine that with the quality and integrity of the Singapore Court system, and you can see why it is viewed as a ‘credible threat’ to London’s current pre-eminence as a centre for international commercial litigation.”     

The creation of the SICC as a division of the High Court was recommended in November 2013 by the ‘SICC Committee’, which was co-chaired by the then Justice V K Rajah and senior minister of state for law Indranee Rajah.

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