Singapore’s Primary Sources of Law

by | Jan 22, 2020 | Resources

What are the Primary Sources of Law in Singapore?

A joint initiative of the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Managing for Excellence Office, Ministry of Finance, the Singapore Statutes Online is a legal research tool which offers the public free access to the full-text consolidation of Acts of Parliament that are in force. The Singapore Statues Online is a subset of the Versioned Legislation Database (VLDB), the official database of Bills, Acts and subsidiary legislation of Singapore. The Singapore Statues Online is updated once a month (generally on the 15th of the month). The Singapore Statues Online provides an alphabetical index of the Act titles and a search interface for easy retrieval of any Act or provisions of Acts.

Bills introduced and passed in Parliament from 1 April 2002, beginning with the Police Force (Amendment) Bill (Bill no.01/2002), are available on the Singapore Parliament website.

Full texts of consolidated Singapore statutes, including the legislative history of each Act. Amendments to statutes are updated regularly on this website but take note that only the Revised Editions of Acts are authoritative. Administered by the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

LawNet is a fee-based network administered by the Singapore Academy of Law. Subscribers to the Legal Workbench database have access to Singapore legislation, case law and treaties including:

  • Rev. Ed. of Singapore Statutes
  • Rev. Ed. Of Singapore Subsidiary legislation
  • Acts supplements
  • Bills supplements
  • Singapore Law Reports 1965-
  • Malayan Law Journal 1932-
  • Academy Digest 1995-
  • Heritage Law Reports
  • Military Court of Appeal decisions 1973-
  • Unreported judgments 1991-
  • Parliament reports 1977-
  • Damages for personal injuries database
  • Singapore treaties database

LawNet Legal Workbench maintains a comprehensive and up-to-date repository of on-line legal research information such as statutory and case law.

Complimentary Access for Legal Academics

Three months complimentary access to Legal Workbench for the purpose of writing academic papers or articles touching on Singapore law. See LawNet for more details.

The SIAC rules and the SIAC Domestic Arbitration Rules are published by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).

Full texts of free trade agreements concluded between Singapore and other countries. Published by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The Media Development Authority regulates Internet Service Providers and Internet Content Providers through the Class License Scheme and Internet Code of Practice.

Practice directions relating to patents, trademarks, registered designs and plant varieties protection. Click on “Legal Resources” on the top menu bar of the webpage for a complete listing of the various categories.

Acts and regulations relating to labour relations, occupational health and occupational safety. Published by the Ministry of Manpower.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore publishes statutes, regulations and notices which it administers as well as other legislation which govern the financial industry in Singapore.

Rules of Court (Supreme Court of Judicature Act)

Rules made pursuant to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act relating to all proceedings within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Subordinate Courts. This latest revised edition incorporating all amendments up to 1 April 2006 is published by the Supreme Courts.

The Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements concluded by Singapore since 1965 are available in full text. These are made available by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.

The Women’s Charter and rules issued under the Act are made available by the Family Court of Singapore.

Singapore has inherited the English common law tradition. In essence, the common law system of Singapore is characterized by the doctrine of judicial precedent (or stare decisis). According to this doctrine, the body of law is created incrementally by judges via the application of legal principles to the facts of particular cases. In this regard, the judges are only required to apply the ratio decidendi (or the operative reason for the decision) of the higher court within the same hierarchy. Thus, in Singapore, the ratio decidendi found in the decisions of the Singapore Court of Appeal are strictly binding on the Singapore High Court, the District Court and the Magistrate’s Court. The court decisions from England and other Commonwealth jurisdictions are, on the other hand, not strictly binding on Singapore. Other judicial statements (obiter dicta) made by the higher court in the judgment which does not directly affect the outcome of the case may be disregarded by the lower court.

The lower court is able, in some cases, to avoid having to apply the ratio decidendi in a prior higher court’s decision if (a) it can materially distinguish the facts of the case before the lower court from those in the prior higher court’s decision; or (b) the higher court’s decision was made per incuriam (that is, without abiding by the doctrine of stare decisis) in the first place.

The heavy influence of the English common law on the development of Singapore law is generally more evident in certain traditional common law areas (such as Contract, Tort and Restitution) than in other statute-based areas (such as Criminal Law, Company Law and the Law of Evidence). With respect to the latter, other jurisdictions such as India and Australia have strongly influenced the approach and content of some of these statutes.

However, the erstwhile tendency of Singapore courts to adhere to English decisions has recently given way to some significant departures from the English courts (even in the traditional common law areas). This development of local jurisprudence reflects the need for the autochthony of Singapore law is further driven by the European Union legal developments and their impact on the British system.

Under an arrangement with the Government and Supreme Court of Singapore, the Singapore Academy of Law is Singapore’s official law-reporting agency with primary responsibility for the selection and publication of Singapore case law.

First published in 1992, the Singapore Law Reports are an integral part of legal practice and scholarship in Singapore. The series reports on a fortnightly basis all legally-significant cases heard in the Singapore Court of Appeal and High Court, and by the Constitutional Tribunal. Cases are selected for publication by the Council of Law Reporting chaired by the Attorney-General. The Singapore Law Reports are available in print and on-line though the Legal Prospector module of LawNet.

There are 2 volumes containing alphabetical tables and subject indexes of cases reported in the Singapore Law Reports for the years 1965-1996 and 1997-2000 respectively. For more recent cases, refer to the tables and indexes in the individual volumes of the Singapore Law Reports. Available in the National University of Singapore Library.

  • Electronic Sources for Case Law
  • Case Law & Decisions

Free access to judgments of the following courts for the last 3 months are provided by LawNet.

  • Subordinate Courts
  • Supreme Court

Summaries of grounds of decisions made by the Registry of Trade Marks (1999-). The summaries are for information only and are not meant to be comprehensive.

Mallal’s Digest: Consolidated Table of Cases 2000 Reissue

An alphabetical table of cases digested in the fourth edition of Mallal’s Digest Reissue volumes. Refer to the Preface for dates of coverage. Available in the National University of Singapore Library.

There are 2 volumes containing alphabetical tables and subject indexes of cases reported in the Singapore Law Reports for the years 1965-1996 and 1997-2000 respectively. For more recent cases, refer to the tables and indexes in the individual volumes of the Singapore Law Reports. Available in the National University of Singapore Library.

Searchable indexes of all amendments to Singapore Subsidiary Legislation (1990 Ed.). Available in the National University of Singapore Library.

The Alphabetical Index of Public Acts, Subject Index to Acts, and Chronological Table of Singapore Acts are found at the front of the first volume of the Statutes. Available in hardcopy at the Loans Desk of the C J Koh Law Library, the National University of Singapore.

The Singapore Journal of Legal Studies (and its predecessor journals, the University of Malaya Law Review and the Malaya Law Review) is in its 5th decade of publication. The journal is managed by its Editorial Committee drawn from the Law Faculty of the National University of Singapore with assistance and advice from eminent legal personalities from other institutions in Singapore and abroad. It is fully peer-reviewed under conditions of anonymity by subject specialists within and outside the Law Faculty, NUS.

It is one of the oldest legal journals in the British Commonwealth. The Journal has always covered both domestic and international legal developments.

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.