Dorsey James Michael v World Sport Group Pte Ltd

JurisdictionSingapore
Judgment Date25 April 2013
Date25 April 2013
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 167 of 2012 (Summons No 71 of 2013)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Dorsey James Michael
Plaintiff
and
World Sport Group Pte Ltd
Defendant

Sundaresh Menon CJ

,

Chao Hick Tin JA

and

V K Rajah JA

Civil Appeal No 167 of 2012 (Summons No 71 of 2013)

Court of Appeal

Civil Procedure—Striking out—Appeal against order of High Court judge giving leave to serve pre-action interrogatories—Whether order giving leave to serve pre-action interrogatories non-appealable to Court of Appeal—Whether order giving leave to serve pre-action interrogatories order made at hearing of interlocutory application—Section 34 (1) (a) Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed)

The appellant appealed against the order of the High Court judge, giving the respondent leave to serve pre-action interrogatories on the appellant. Before the Court of Appeal, the respondent applied to strike out the notice of appeal. The ground relied upon by the respondent in its striking out application was that the order of the High Court judge was not appealable to the Court of Appeal by reason of s 34 (1) (a)of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed), read with para (i) of the Fourth Schedule. The said provisions had the effect of excluding the right of appeal to the Court of Appeal where a judge made an order ‘giving or refusing interrogatories’.

Held, dismissing the application:

(1) The effect of s 29A (1) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) (‘the SCJA’) was that ordinarily, any judgment or order of the High Court was appealable to the Court of Appeal as of right. This, however, was subject to any contrary provision in the SCJA or any other written law: at [11] .

(2) Section 9A (1) of the Interpretation Act (Cap 1, 2002 Rev Ed) mandated that a purposive approach be taken in statutory interpretation. The purposive approach was paramount and took precedence over any other common law principle of interpretation, including in the present case, the plain meaning rule. Moreover, under the purposive approach mandated by s 9A (1), reference could be made to extrinsic material such as parliamentary debates even if, on a plain reading, the words of the statutory provision are unambiguous or do not produce unreasonable or absurd results: at [18] and [19] .

(3) The question to be answered by the Court was whether para (i)of the Fourth Schedule to the SCJA, when read harmoniously with the statutory context in which it was found as well as the objects and purposes underlying that statutory context, included an order of a judge giving or refusing pre-action interrogatories. This question turned on the anterior question of whether an application for leave to serve pre-action interrogatories pursuant to O 26 A r 1 of the Rules of Court (Cap 332, R 5, 2006 Rev Ed) was an ‘interlocutory application’ for the purposes of the SCJA: at [21] and [50] .

(4) It was clear that the legislative scheme introduced by the 2010 amendments as set out in the new s 34 and the Fourth and Fifth Schedules to the SCJA was only intended to apply to orders made at the hearing of interlocutory applications. Paragraph (i) of the Fourth Schedule should also be read contextually, in light of para (e)of the Fifth Schedule which established the default requirement that leave of the High Court be obtained before an appeal could be brought to the Court of Appeal from orders made at the hearing of interlocutory applications. Accordingly, para (i)of the Fourth Schedule to the SCJA referred to an order giving or refusing interrogatories that was made at the hearing of an interlocutory application for interrogatories: at [51] to [54] .

(5) Counsel for the respondent conceded that an application for leave to serve pre-action interrogatories was not an interlocutory application. In the circumstances, the concession was properly made. Such an application for leave to serve pre-action interrogatories was not an application made between the time a party filed a civil case in court and when the case was finally heard for disposal. Rather, it was pertinent that an application for leave to serve pre-action interrogatories under O 26 A r 1 of the Rules of Court was made by way of originating summons. The sole purpose of the originating summons was to obtain discovery of information through the administration of interrogatories on the defendant to the originating summons. Once the application was determined, the entire subject matter of that originating summons was spent and there was nothing further for the court to deal with: at [57] , [60] and [64] .

(6) Further, it was not always the case that substantive proceedings would be commenced by the party seeking to administer pre-action interrogatories. Moreover, under O 26 A r 1 (5) of the Rules of Court, the court may, before the commencement of proceedings, order that interrogatories be administered on a person who was not a party to those proceedings for the purpose of identifying the likely parties to those proceedings. In such cases, the only obligation imposed by the court on the defendant to the originating summons, vis-à-vis the plaintiff, was to make discovery of information. The action brought against such a defendant was one purely for the discovery of information. This was separate and distinct from proceedings which might subsequently be commenced by the party having obtained the information: at [67] , [68] and [72] .

(7) Therefore, an application for leave to serve pre-action interrogatories did not fall within the meaning of ‘interlocutory application’ under the SCJA. It followed that the reference to ‘interrogatories’ in para (i)of the Fourth Schedule to the SCJA did not include pre-action interrogatories. An appeal against an order giving or refusing pre-action interrogatories did not come within any of the limitations prescribed by s 34 of the SCJA or the Fourth and Fifth Schedules to the SCJA. The appellant had a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal against the order of the High Court judge. The respondent's striking out application was dismissed: at [73] and [74] .

[Observation: The appellant's submissions, although inconsequential in the present case, raised fundamental questions regarding the interpretation of para (e) of the Fifth Schedule to the SCJA. In particular it raised the question of whether the default requirement of leave under para (e) of the Fifth Schedule applied regardless of the type of order that was made. If ‘order’ under para (e) was interpreted to mean all orders, whether interlocutory or final, there would be instances where final orders made at the hearing of an interlocutory application would be appealable to the Court of Appeal only with leave of the High Court judge. The problem with such an interpretation was that it was inconsistent was the legislative intention underlying the 2010 amendments to the SCJA. In passing the 2010 amendments, Parliament had intended for an appeal to the Court of Appeal to remain as of right for interlocutory applications that could affect the final outcome of the case. In the circumstances, the reference to ‘order’ in para (e) of the Fifth Schedule should be read to mean ‘interlocutory order’: at [76] , [77] , [79] , [81] and [85] .]

Blenwel Agencies Pte Ltd v Tan Lee King [2008] 2 SLR (R) 529; [2008] 2 SLR 529 (folld)

Bozson v Altrincham Urban District Council [1903] 1 KB 547 (refd)

Constitutional Reference No 1 of 1995 [1995] 1 SLR (R) 803; [1995] 2 SLR 201 (folld)

Maldives Airports Co Ltd v GMR Malé International Airport Pte Ltd [2013] 2 SLR 449 (folld)

Mills v Meeking (1990) 169 CLR 214 (folld)

Norwich Pharmacal Co v Customs and Excise Commissioners [1974] AC 133 (refd)

Open Net Pte Ltd v Info-Communications Development Authority of Singapore [2013] 2 SLR 880 (folld)

Planmarine AG v Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore [1999] 1 SLR (R) 669; [1999] 2 SLR 1 (folld)

PP v Low Kok Heng [2007] 4 SLR (R) 183; [2007] 4 SLR 183 (folld)

Salaman v Warner [1891] 1 QB 734 (refd)

Singapore Press Holdings Ltd v Brown Noel Trading Pte Ltd [1994] 3 SLR (R) 114; [1994] 3 SLR 151 (refd)

Wellmix Organics (International) Pte Ltd v Lau Yu Man [2006] 2 SLR (R) 525; [2006] 2 SLR 525 (refd)

International Arbitration Act (Cap 143 A, 2002 Rev Ed) s 12

Interpretation Act (Cap 1, 2002 Rev Ed) s 9A (consd) ;ss 9A (1) , 9A (2)

Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2006 Rev Ed) O 14 r 12 (consd) ;O 24 r 6, O 26A r 1, O 26 A r 1 (1) , O 26A r 1 (2) , O 26A r 1 (5) , O57 r 16 (3)

Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 1985 Rev Ed) s 34 (1) (c)

Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) ss 29A (1) , 34, Fourth Schedule para (i) , Fifth Schedule para (e) (consd) ; ss 34 (1) (a) , 34 (2) (d) , 34 (2 B) , Fifth Schedule paras (c) , (e) (ix)

Interpretation of Legislation Act 1984 (Vic) s 35

N Sreenivasan SC and Sujatha Selvakumar (Straits Law Practice LLC) for theappellant

Deborah Barker SC and Ushan Premaratne (Khattar Wong LLP) for the respondent.

Sundaresh Menon CJ

(delivering the grounds of decision of the court):

Introduction

1 This is an application by the respondent to strike out Civil Appeal No 167 of 2012/M (‘CA 167/2012’). CA 167/2012 is an appeal from the decision of the High Court judge (‘the Judge’) in Registrar's Appeal No 404 of 2012/C (‘RA 404/2012’). By her decision, the Judge ordered that the respondent be at liberty to serve on the appellant the pre-action interrogatories set out in Schedule 1 of the Order of Court and that the appellant answer the same.

2 The principal ground relied upon by the respondent in its striking out application was that the order of the Judge in RA 404/2012 was not appealable to this court by reason of s 34 (1) (a)of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) (‘the SCJA’), read with para (i) of the Fourth Schedule to the SCJA.

3 At the close of the hearing, we dismissed the respondent's application to strike out CA 167/2012. We gave a short oral judgment...

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