Augustine and Another v Goh Siam Yong

JudgeKarthigesu J
Judgment Date08 April 1992
Neutral Citation[1992] SGCA 24
Citation[1992] SGCA 24
Defendant CounselNarindar Singh (NS Kang)
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselAxel Chan (Koh & Yang)
Date08 April 1992
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 83 of 1989
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterAppeals,Words and Phrases,Subordinate Courts Act (Cap 321) ss 47 & 69,Damages assessed by registrar in subordinate courts,Whether judge-in-chambers exercising appellate jurisdiction -Whether 'amount in dispute' exceeded $2,000 making leave of court unnecessary,Right of appeal from decision of district judge,Appeal to district judge-in-chambers -Whether right of appeal to High Court exists,Interpretation Act (Cap 1) ss 2 & 19,Whether such rule ultra vires enabling Act,s 21 Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322),Whether right of appeal restricted,'Amount in dispute',Civil Procedure

Cur Adv Vult

The central question in this appeal was whether there is a right of appeal to the High Court from a decision of a district judge-in-chambers on a matter first heard by the registrar of the subordinate courts. Notwithstanding O 55 r 1(5) of the Subordinate Courts Rules (`the Rules`) which purported to take away the right of appeal to the High Court, Chan Sek Keong J in the court below granted the respondent a declaration that such a right of appeal subsisted [see [1989] 3 MLJ 406 ]. In the process, the learned judge found O 55 r 1(5) to be ultra vires and accordingly of no effect. This appeal was brought against his decision.

The respondent commenced MC Suit No 54 of 1988 to recover damages in respect of a traffic accident.
The appellants did not enter an appearance and the respondent obtained interlocutory judgment with damages to be assessed. Damages were assessed by a deputy registrar of the subordinate courts at $4,780.89. The appellants appealed to a district judge-in-chambers who reduced the damages to $1,177.50. The respondent filed a notice of appeal to the High Court against this reduced assessment. The appellants then applied to strike out the notice of appeal on the ground that by virtue of O 55 r 1(5) the respondent had no right of appeal. The whole of O 55 r 1 reads as follows:

(1) An appeal shall lie to a Judge in Chambers from any judgment, order or decision of the Registrar.

(2) The appeal shall be brought by serving on every other party to the proceedings in which the judgment, order or decision was given or made a notice in Form 111B to attend before the Judge on a day specified in the notice or on such other day as may be directed.

(3) Unless the Court otherwise orders, the notice must be filed within 5 days after the judgment, order or decision appealed against was given or made and served not less than 2 clear days before the day fixed for hearing the appeal.

(4) Except so far as the Court may otherwise direct, an appeal under this Rule shall not operate as a stay of the proceedings in which the appeal is brought.

(5) The decision of the Judge in Chambers under this Rule shall be final.

This application was heard by the deputy registrar of the Supreme Court who made no order on the application so as to allow the respondent to apply to the High Court for a declaration that she had such a right of appeal.
This application for a declaration was heard by Chan Sek Keong J on 2 June 1989, and on 27 July 1989 he granted the declaration sought. Against this declaration the appellants appealed.

Section 21 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322) (`the SCJA`) confers a right of appeal to the High Court from decisions of the district court in civil cases where an amount of more than $2,000 is in dispute.
Section 21 reads:

(1) Subject to the provisions of this or any other written law, an appeal shall lie to the High Court from a decision of a District Court or Magistrate`s Court in any suit or action for the recovery of immovable property or in any civil cause or matter where the amount in dispute or the value of the subject matter exceeds $2,000 or with the leave of the High Court if under that amount.

(2) Such appeals may be heard before one Judge provided that the Judge, if...

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