New appellate court may be set up to ease Court of Appeal's growing caseload: Edwin Tong

A new appellate court may be introduced to support the current Court of Appeal with its caseload that has increased by more than 50 per cent since 2013.
A new appellate court may be introduced to support the current Court of Appeal with its caseload that has increased by more than 50 per cent since 2013.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

SINGAPORE - A new appellate court may be introduced to support the current Court of Appeal with its caseload that has increased by more than 50 per cent over the past five years.

To do so, the Supreme Court will have to be restructured, and the Government is studying the options, said Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong on Monday (April 22).

This comes as the total number of civil and criminal cases before the Court of Appeal rose by 56 per cent to 490 last year, compared with 314 cases in 2013, as Singapore positions itself as an international hub for dispute resolution services, he added.

While measures, such as having more High Court judges sit on the Court of Appeal and increasing the number of sitting days, have since been implemented in the interim, a "more permanent" solution is needed, said Mr Tong during his keynote address at the two-day Litigation Conference organised by the Law Society of Singapore.

Various options are being studied by the Ministry of Law that will allow appeals from the High Court to be distributed between the two appellate courts, and for a pool of judges to sit in the new court.

The Court of Appeal will also retain its status as the apex court of the land, said Mr Tong.

It will primarily hear cases that are likely to have "substantial consequences" to individuals or society, concern the Court of Appeal's control and oversight of lower courts and tribunals, or concern the general administration of justice, such as those relating to the Constitution, criminal matters, contempt of court, and the Singapore International Commercial Court.

Other appeals from the High Court will then be heard by the new appellate court, he said.

"However, a mechanism will allow appeals that do not fall within these categories of cases, but satisfy certain other criteria, to be dealt with by the Court of Appeal directly," he added, without elaborating.

Further appeals to the Court of Appeal for cases heard by the new appellate court may also be allowed, under stringent requirements "to reflect the fact that the matter has already been considered by an appellate court".

"A further appeal to the Court of Appeal should therefore only be permitted for deserving matters, for example where the appeal raises an arguable point of law of general public importance," he said, adding that more details will be announced "in due course".