The Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”) was officially launched at Singapore’s Opening of the Legal Year, on 5 January 2015. The SICC is a unique offering in Asia and provides a further choice of dispute resolution procedures for parties in Singapore.
The SICC is a division of the Singapore High Court and it seeks to incorporate some of the popular aspects of arbitration whilst retaining other fundamental principles of court proceedings, such as the right to appeal a decision to the Court of Appeal. The SICC will hear cases that are either transferred to it by the Singapore High Court, or which parties have agreed should be referred to its jurisdiction.
In addition to designated Singapore High Court judges, a number of international judges, from both common law and civil law backgrounds, will also sit on the SICC’s bench, enabling the SICC to hear submissions on and determine disputes governed by foreign laws, as well as Singapore law. Cases will be heard by either a single judge or a panel of three judges. However, unlike in arbitration, the parties will not have a right to nominate their preferred judge. Foreign counsel will be permitted to represent parties before the SICC, subject to certain conditions. Generally, this will be permitted where either Singapore law is not the applicable law to the dispute, or where the only connection between the dispute and Singapore is the parties’ choice of Singapore law as the governing law. The SICC also offers parties flexibility to choose the applicable rules of evidence.
Whereas arbitration awards made in Singapore are enforceable under the New York Convention in any of its 152 signatory states, the enforcement of SICC judgments (as Singapore High Court judgments) outside Singapore would depend upon the existence of reciprocal enforcement treaties, of which Singapore is currently only signatory to a few. This is something that the Singapore government is actively taking steps to improve upon.
Despite some potential concerns over the enforcement of its judgments, the SICC offers an interesting alternative to parties seeking to resolve disputes in Singapore which will complement the options already offered by the globally recognised Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the recently launched Singapore International Mediation Centre and will further enhance Singapore’s reputation as a hub for the resolution of international disputes.