SINGAPORE -A new appeals division being formed in the High Court, to handle some of the growing number of appeals making its way to the apex court, will start hearing cases from Jan 2.
The new Appellate Division, which will hear civil appeals, is one of two divisions that will come under the High Court following a restructuring aimed at improving the efficiency of the courts.
The other division is the General Division and it will continue to perform the High Court's current functions.
With this change, High Court cases decided by the General Division could go to the Appellate Division on appeal, a departure from the current arrangement that sees all appeals against High Court decisions going to the apex Court of Appeal.
The High Court and the Court of Appeal make up the Supreme Court, which announced the various details of the changes in a statement on Friday (Dec 18).
It said High Court judges Belinda Ang, Woo Bih Li, and Quentin Loh will be appointed judges of the Appellate Division, with their terms starting from Jan 2.
Justice Ang will be president of the division.
The structural reforms had been given the nod in Parliament in November last year, with amendments made to the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore Act, the Supreme Court of Judicature Act and the Judges' Remuneration Act.
The Supreme Court said the Court of Appeal will continue to hear all criminal appeals, and prescribed categories of civil appeals.
Appeals that will go to the apex court include those arising from constitutional law, administrative law and contempt of court cases, as well as those against decisions made under the Parliamentary Elections Act and the Presidential Elections Act.
Civil appeals not on the prescribed list will be heard by the High Court's new Appellate Division, which will typically sit in a panel of three judges.
Despite the prescribed categories, the Court of Appeal will have the power to transfer civil cases between itself and the Appellate Division in accordance with provisions under the law, said the Supreme Court.
The Court of Appeal also has the power to grant leave for further appeal against the decisions of the Appellate Division, when the appeal raises a point of law of public importance.
Said the Supreme Court: "The new Appellate Division will enable the Supreme Court to better deploy judicial resources and manage the appeals caseload, which will be allocated between the existing Court of Appeal and the new Appellate Division while continuing to maintain high standards of access to justice and quality of justice."
Meanwhile, the General Division, which includes the Singapore International Commercial Court and the Family Division of the High Court, will have all the jurisdiction and powers of the existing High Court.
This means it will hear the cases that now go to the High Court, including the appeal cases that emanate from cases heard in the lower courts.
Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong, who tabled the amendments in Parliament, said in a Facebook post on Friday: "In the past five years, the number of cases received by the Court of Appeal has increased significantly - by more than 50 per cent, with cases getting more complex by virtue of the world we live in today."
Mr Tong, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, added: "To enable the courts to better manage the appeals caseload and maintain its high standards of access to justice and quality of justice, the new Appellate Division will have its own Judges, who will hear certain civil appeals that are currently heard by the Court of Appeal."