New court rules to streamline civil procedure, keep costs reasonable

The updated Rules of Court will be implemented on April 1, 2022. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - New rules governing court proceedings, aimed at enhancing the efficiency of Singapore's civil litigation process while keeping legal costs reasonable, were gazetted on Wednesday (Dec 1).

The updated Rules of Court will be implemented on April 1 next year, the Supreme Court and the State Courts said.

The new rules entail simplifying rules and modernising the language, streamlining procedural steps and enabling greater judicial control of the entire litigation process.

Court terminology will be simplified, such as using the term "without notice" instead of the Latin term "ex parte" to describe proceedings brought by one party without notifying the other.

Under the new rules, the court must, as far as possible, order litigants to file a single application pending trial to deal with all matters that are necessary for the case to proceed expeditiously.

These matters include the addition or removal of parties, producing documents, and expert evidence.

This seeks to prevent parties from litigating in a step-by-step fashion and, in the process, generating a host of applications and appeals in the pre-trial stage, which drives up cost and takes up time.

Another feature is that the court may order parties to file affidavits of evidence-in-chief - sworn statements of witnesses which count as their testimony - before producing documents.

This is aimed at crystallising the disputed issues, reducing the scope of disclosure, and avoiding the possibility of witnesses adjusting their testimony to match disclosed documents.

Under the new rules, the court will also not approve the use of expert evidence unless it will contribute materially to the determination of an issue in the case.

The new rules are the culmination of the work of two committees, one set up by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and the other by the Law Ministry, tasked with studying reforms to the civil justice system.

Chief Justice Menon said: "While Singapore has a world-class civil litigation system, we must continue to review and improve our system to better serve the needs of our society.

"The new rules demonstrate our commitment to developing a forward-looking legal system while maintaining the costs of litigation at reasonable levels. They will also help us achieve the crucial goal of reducing the complexity of legal proceedings and streamlining our court processes to further improve access to justice."

Information on the new rules are available on the Singapore Courts website.

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