Goh Song Khoon & Another v Seah Jin Shiow @ Shi Ren Qing

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeDoris Lai-Chia Lee Mui
Judgment Date06 April 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] SGDC 12
Citation[2000] SGDC 12
Published date19 September 2003




The Plaintiffs (the first Plaintiff is the husband while the 2nd Plaintiff is the wife) are the Petitioners in Adoption Petition No. 47 of 1999. The Defendant is the adoptive mother of the infant Xie Weiqi (f) born on 21/9/94, who was adopted in 1995.

2. The second Plaintiff took care of the infant from the day she was born and brought out of the maternity ward of Kandang Kerbau Hospital till on or about 1/1/98. The Defendant was initially a nun in Tse Toh Aum Buddhist Temple located at 60 Sin Ming Drive, Singapore. During the period the infant lived with the Plaintiffs she only visited the Temple during religious festivals about 4 to 5 times a year and would stay with the Defendant for 3 to 7 days on each occasion. The Plaintiffs were paid or given $600 per month to take care of the infant.

3. On or about first January 1998 the infant was brought back to the Temple as she was to be sent to nursery school.

4. The second Plaintiff would thereafter go to the infant’s school every weekday at about 2 pm and waited at the school canteen until the infant came out for recess. She would have food prepared for the infant and play with her during recess. She also got to interact with the infant whenever the infant came out of her classroom for her outdoor activities. The second Plaintiff would return home each day at about 5 pm.

5. The infant would also occasionally reside with the Plaintiffs on weekends.

6. On 16/6/98 the Plaintiffs instructed solicitors to assist them in legally adopting the infant. Their solicitor Mr Lee Beng Tat assisted them in locating the address and telephone number of the defendant through the telephone directory. This was because the defendant had left the temple around June 1996 and returned to the secular world.

7. On 17/7/98 the Defendant attended at the solicitor’s office and indicated she was consenting to the Plaintiffs’ proposed adoption of the infant. As she did not have the infant’s birth certificate she was told to get a fresh extract from the Registry of Births and Deaths.

8. In support of the proposed adoption by the Plaintiffs the Defendant affirmed an affidavit dated 1/3/99 setting out what life was like for an infant in the temple. In this affidavit, she had stated inter alia, that:-

(i) "any child residing with the Temple, including the Infant would be assigned to one of the adult residents of the Temple, as part of her responsibility as a resident of the Temple. This person however would have more than one child assigned to her and will not be able to devote all her attention to any one child. She is mainly concerned with the administrative details of the child’s residence in the Temple and to bring her to the doctor when he or she is sick. This person has other Temple duties and has little time for the children assigned to her. I, being the adoptive mother of the Infant was assigned to taking care of her while I was a resident at the Temple.

(ii) At night, the children residing at the Temple sleep with some of the hired maids. The Temple has several maids from the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Each room would be occupied by a few children and one or a few maids depending on the size of the room to which the child is assigned.

(iii) The children’s daily schedule from Mondays to Fridays is as follows:

(a) There is no planned programme or activity for the children in the morning and they just remain in their rooms. Some toys are provided for them.

(b) As for the Infant, she would be fetched to her school by school bus at about 1.20 p.m. She is then brought back also by school bus to the Temple each evening after school and arrive at the Temple at about 6.00 p.m.

(c) In the evening, there is also no programme planned for the children at the Temple. Sometimes, the video player or the television is turned on for them to keep them entertained and occupied.

(d) At about 9.00 p.m. the children are sent to bed with a glass of milk.

(e) There is no tuition or anyone to teach the children as far as their school work is concerned.

(iv) As for Saturdays and Sundays, there is also no planned programme for the children except that at 4.00 p.m. there will be prayers which the children are to attend. This lasts till 4.40 p.m. or 5.00 p.m.

(v) The children at the Temple start to work within the Temple when their (sic) reach the age of about 14 and some allowances would be given to them for the work they perform in the Temple. This continues even after they become adults. This allowance is not much and would usually not exceed $500 per month when they become adults.

(vi) The children’s education would be paid by the Temple and they usually study at the most up to Secondary 4 level depending on each child’s ability."

9. The Defendant had also stated in the same affidavit that she had seen the way the Plaintiffs, particularly the second Plaintiff relate to the infant and was convinced that they care for and love the infant very much.

10. Arrangements were made for the infant to be handed over to the Plaintiffs on 1/3/99 and on the evening of 1/3/99 the Defendant and the second Plaintiff went to the infant’s childcare centre. As the principal of the childcare centre did not allow the Defendant or the second Plaintiff to collect the infant, the infant boarded her usual school bus and was brought back to the temple. The Defendant and the second Plaintiff followed by taxi and thereafter the second Plaintiff collected the infant outside the temple. The Defendant and the second Plaintiff then parted company. That evening, a Madam Ong Ah Moi, the abbess of the temple accompanied by 3 other women went to the Plaintiff’s home and accused the second Plaintiff of giving money to the Defendant claiming that otherwise the Defendant would not have been so co-operative with respect to the proposed adoption.

11. On 3/3/99 the Defendant informed the Plaintiffs’ solicitors that she was withdrawing her consent to the adoption and that she wished to take the infant from the Plaintiffs which she did at 9.30 p.m. that evening. The Plaintiffs therefore took out this application under s.13 of the Guardianship of Infants Act for an order that the Defendant produce the infant and that a temporary custody order be granted to the Petitioner pending the preparation, finalisation and filing of a welfare report.

Defendant’s Claim

12. The Defendant claimed that in persuading her to give her consent to the adoption the second Plaintiff had stressed to her that she should not be so selfish as to let the infant follow her footsteps and therefore rob her of a chance to taste family life. As the Defendant was reminded of her unhappy childhood, her parents having divorced when she was very young and with her being subsequently brought to the temple by her father when she was 8 years old, she eventually gave her consent to the Plaintiffs to adopt the infant.

13. In respect of her affidavit affirmed on 1 March 1999 setting out what life was like for the infant in the temple, the Defendant claimed that "at no time did I give my consent nor affirmed the affidavit filed on 2 March 1999 for the reason that the life in the temple was unsuitable for my child". She stated that before affirming the affidavit, she was asked to relate the...

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