SINGAPORE - As a Court of Appeal judge, Justice Chao Hick Tin holds the record for the highest number of dissenting judgments from his peers on the bench.
The number is more than double that of the next contender for the record, Justice Choo Han Teck.
In his lack of hesitation to depart from the majority, Justice Chao pursued justice and fairness, said Attorney-General Lucien Wong at a ceremony on Tuesday (Oct 23) in which Justice Chao, 76, was conferred the title of Honorary Member for Life and Fellow for Life by the Singapore Academy of Law.
During a career spanning five decades, Justice Chao was Attorney-General from 2006 to 2008 and served as a judge for 28 years, dedicating his life's work to public service for Singapore, said A-G Wong at the ceremony, which was attended by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam, former Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar and former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong.
"Having chosen to dedicate himself to public service in Singapore and to resolutely protect and advance Singapore's interests, he quickly proved to be pivotal as one of the pioneers of international law practice in Singapore," he noted.
Among Justice Chao's accomplishments was to be the first legal officer to be elevated to the High Court Bench without first cutting his teeth at the Subordinate Courts.
In addition, he was re-appointed to the Court of Appeal a record five times after reaching the retirement age of 65.
He is also the only judge to have served under all four of Singapore's post-independence Chief Justices.
"For many, their admiration for Justice Chao is rooted in his outstanding character - his humility, thoughtfulness, composure, and wisdom, among many other admirable attributes - and the humanity that he brought to his role as a judge," said A-G Wong.
In his speech, Justice Chao credited those he worked with during his tenure as Attorney-General and his predecessors when he served as a judge for his work on the bench.
"If I am considered a prolific judge, it is only because I have had the advantage of standing on the shoulders of common law giants and walking in the company of remarkably able judicial colleagues with outstanding minds," he said.
Justice Chao also said that while he holds the record number of dissenting judgments, it is "small" considering the number of years he served on the Court of Appeal, from which he retired last year.
He noted that "none of us who sit on the Court of Appeal, myself included, ever sets out hearing an appeal with the aim of differing from the other members of the coram".
"Ultimately, we are all bound by the oath of office which we each took upon our appointment to the Bench, and by our common loyalty to uphold the rule of law," he said.