Ong Jane Rebecca v Lim Lie Hoa

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
JudgeWoo Bih Li JAD,Steven Chong JCA
Judgment Date29 June 2021
Docket NumberCivil Appeals Nos 116, 190, 191 and 192 of 2020 and Summonses Nos 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39 of 2021

[2021] SGCA 63

Court of Appeal

Steven Chong JCA and Woo Bih Li JAD

Civil Appeals Nos 116, 190, 191 and 192 of 2020 and Summonses Nos 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39 of 2021

Ong Jane Rebecca
and
Lim Lie Hoa and other appeals and other matters

Andrew Ohara (Eden Law Corporation) for the appellant in Civil Appeals Nos 116, 190, 191 and 192 of 2020;

Respondent in Civil Appeals Nos 116 and 190 in person;

Chua Sui Tong and Gan Jhia Huei (Rev Law LLC) for the respondent in Civil Appeals Nos 191 and 192.

Case(s) referred to

Beckkett Pte Ltd v Deutsche Bank AG [2005] 3 SLR(R) 555; [2005] 3 SLR 555 (not folld)

Branconnier, Re [2017] BCJ No 2107 (folld)

Derby & Co Ltd v Weldon The Times (20 October 1988) (refd)

ED&F Man Capital Markets Ltd v Straits (Singapore) Pte Ltd [2020] 2 SLR 695 (refd)

Foo Jong Long Dennis v Ang Yee Lim [2015] 2 SLR 578 (refd)

Halcon International Inc v Shell Transport & Trading Co Ltd [1979] RPC 97 (refd)

Jane Rebecca Ong v Lim Lie Hoa [1996] SGHC 140 (refd)

Leads Engineering (S) Pte Ltd v Chin Choon Co (Pte) Ltd [2009] SGHC 53 (refd)

Lim Lie Hoa v Ong Jane Rebecca [1997] 1 SLR(R) 775; [1997] 2 SLR 320, CA (refd)

Lim Lie Hoa v Ong Jane Rebecca [2005] 3 SLR(R) 116; [2005] 3 SLR 116, CA (refd)

Lim Suk Ling Priscilla v Amber Compounding Pharmacy Pte Ltd [2020] 2 SLR 912 (folld)

Mohan Bhagwandas Murjani, Re [1991] HKCFI 135 (distd)

Nasco Gem, The [2014] 2 SLR 63 (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v Lim Lie Hoa [2002] 1 SLR(R) 798; [2002] 2 SLR 493, HC (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v Lim Lie Hoa [2002] 2 SLR(R) 1078; [2002] 4 SLR 533, HC (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v Lim Lie Hoa [2003] 1 SLR(R) 457; [2003] 1 SLR 457, HC (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v Lim Lie Hoa [2003] SGHC 126 (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v Lim Lie Hoa (No 5) [2004] SGHC 131 (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v Lim Lie Hoa [2004] 4 SLR(R) 301; [2004] 4 SLR 301, HC (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v Lim Lie Hoa [2005] SGCA 4 (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v Lim Lie Hoa [2008] 3 SLR(R) 189; [2008] 3 SLR 189, HC (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v PricewaterhouseCoopers [2009] 2 SLR(R) 796; [2009] 2 SLR 796, HC (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v PricewaterhouseCoopers [2011] 4 SLR 242, HC (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v PricewaterhouseCoopers [2011] SGHC 203 (refd)

Ong Jane Rebecca v PricewaterhouseCoopers [2012] 3 SLR 606, HC (refd)

Ong v Ping [2015] EWHC 1742 (Ch), HC (Eng) (refd)

Ong v Ping [2015] EWHC 3258 (Ch), HC (Eng) (refd)

Ong v Ping [2017] EWCA Civ 2069, CA (Eng) (refd)

PT Bakrie Investindo v Global Distressed Alpha Fund 1 Ltd Partnership [2013] 4 SLR 1116 (refd)

Reebok International Ltd v Royal Corp [1991] 2 SLR(R) 688; [1992] 2 SLR 136 (refd)

Relfo Ltd v Bhimji Velji Jadva Varsani [2009] 4 SLR(R) 351; [2009] 4 SLR 351 (refd)

Riddick v Thames Board Mills Ltd [1977] QB 881 (refd)

Ser Kim Koi v William Merrell Fulton [2009] SGHC 5 (refd)

Sim Leng Chua v Manghardt [1987] SLR(R) 52; [1987] SLR 205 (refd)

Sinwa SS (HK) Co Ltd v Nordic International Ltd [2015] 2 SLR 54 (distd)

Standard Chartered Bank v Loh Chong Yong Thomas [2010] 2 SLR 569 (folld)

Takahashi Kenji v Koh Hiang Pin [2012] 4 SLR 1032 (refd)

Tay Kar Oon v Tahir [2017] 2 SLR 342 (refd)

Timing Ltd v Tay Toh Hin [2020] 5 SLR 974, HC (refd)

Timing Ltd v Tay Toh Hin [2021] 4 SLR 1040, HC (refd)

Legislation referred to

Bankruptcy Act (Cap 20, 2009 Rev Ed) s 76(1)(c)

Bankruptcy (Amendment) Act 2009 (Act 6 of 2009)

Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Rev Ed)

Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018 (Act 40 of 2018) ss 327(1)(c), 401(1)(a) (consd);

ss 39, 327, 327(1)(c)(ii), 401, 401(1), 419, 419(2)

Rules of Court (2014 Rev Ed) O 14, O 45, O 48

Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) Fifth Schedule para 1(h)

Supreme Court Civil Rules, BC Reg 168/2009 (Can) r 13-4(2)

Abuse of ProcessRiddick principle — Riddick principle as expression of doctrine of abuse of process — Riddick principle as lever to regulate use of documents in other proceedings — Framework for approaching cases involving Riddick principle

Civil Procedure — Appeals — No order made — No order made on summary judgment — No order made on summary judgment following striking out of claim — Whether decision of no order made appealable

Civil Procedure — Disclosure of documents — Riddick principle — Documents protected by Riddick principle — Element of compulsion — Whether documents disclosed in examination of judgment debtor proceedings protected by Riddick principle — Whether documents disclosed in examination of judgment debtor proceedings produced on compulsion — Whether affidavits filed in examination of judgment debtor proceedings filed on compulsion — Whether documents produced post-judgment produced on compulsion

Civil Procedure — Disclosure of documents — Riddick principle — Documents protected by Riddick principle — Whether leave of court required to use documents — Balance of interests — Whether balance of interests in favour of grant of leave — Retrospective leave — Whether prospective leave factors relevant in retrospective leave inquiry — Whether exceptional circumstances existed warranting grant of retrospective leave

Civil Procedure — Disclosure of documents — Riddick principle — Documents protected by Riddick principle — Whether leave of court required to use documents — Whether documents protected by Riddick principle could be used in enforcement proceedings without leave of court — Whether related proceedings were enforcement proceedings in which protected documents could be used

Civil Procedure — Striking out — Abuse of process — Use of documents in breach of Riddick principle

Insolvency Law — Administration of insolvent estates — Conduct of legal proceedings — Stay of proceedings — Whether proceedings should be stayed — Whether appeals involved action in respect of debt — Section 327(1)(c) Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018 (Act 40 of 2018)

Insolvency Law — Bankruptcy — Trustee in bankruptcy — Conduct of legal proceedings — Sanction of trustee in bankruptcy — Whether sanction of trustee in bankruptcy required — Whether sanction of trustee in bankruptcy was obtained — Sections 39, 401(1)(a) and 419 Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018 (Act 40 of 2018)

Statutory Interpretation — Construction of statute — Relationship between ss 327(1)(c) and 401(1)(a) Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018 (Act 40 of 2018) — Sections 327(1)(c) and 401(1)(a) Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018 (Act 40 of 2018)

Facts

There were four inter-related appeals and six applications before the court. The appellant in all four appeals was Jane Rebecca Ong. The respondent in CA/CA 116/2020 (“CA 116”) and CA/CA 190/2020 (“CA 190”) was the estate (“the Estate”) of the late Mdm Lim Lie Hoa (“Mdm Lim”), who was the appellant's former mother-in-law. Ong Siauw Ping (“OSP”) was one of Mdm Lim's sons and the sole executor of the Estate. He was the respondent in CA/CA 191/2020 (“CA 191”) and CA/CA 192/2020 (“CA 192”).

The appellant commenced examination of judgment debtor (“EJD”) proceedings against the Estate (“the EJD proceedings”). She sought to recover a long-standing judgment debt of about S$911,705.54 including accrued interest, owed to her by the Estate in BC 118/2006 (“BC 118”). In the EJD proceedings, OSP, in his capacity as executor of the Estate, filed four affidavits (“the EJD documents”).

Using the information in the EJD documents, the appellant commenced HC/S 47/2020 (“Suit 47”) against OSP in his personal capacity as well as in his capacity as executor of the Estate, alleging breaches of the duties he owed to the Estate. These breaches involved the alleged misappropriation of three properties of the Estate and the rental income from these properties. The appellant applied for summary judgment in Suit 47, and OSP applied to strike out the appellant's statement of claim. OSP alleged that the appellant had used the EJD documents to commence Suit 47 in violation of the principle in Riddick v Thames Board Mills Ltd[1977] QB 881 (“Riddick”). The appellant then filed HC/SUM 1237/2020 (“SUM 1237”) seeking a declaration that she was entitled to use the EJD documents in Suit 47 without the leave of court (“Prayer 1”), or alternatively for the leave of court to be granted (“Prayer 2”).

Prayer 1 of SUM 1237 was heard and dismissed by the judge below (“the Judge”). The Judge directed Prayer 2 of SUM 1237 and the summary judgment and striking-out applications to be heard by an assistant registrar (the “Assistant Registrar”). The applications were dismissed by the Assistant Registrar. The appellant appealed against the Assistant Registrar's decisions via HC/RA 157/2020, HC/RA 158/2020 and HC/RA 159/2020 (“RA 157”, “RA 158” and “RA 159” respectively). The three appeals were dismissed by the Judge. As a result, the appellant was not allowed to use the EJD documents in Suit 47, and Suit 47 was consequently struck out for abuse of process. No order was made on the summary judgment application in light of the striking out of Suit 47.

CA 116 was the appellant's appeal against the Judge's decision in respect of Prayer 1 of SUM 1237. CA 190 was the appeal against the Judge's decision in RA 157. CA 191 was the appeal against the Judge's decision in RA 158 to strike out Suit 47. CA 192 was the appeal against the Judge's decision to make “no order” in respect of the summary judgment application in RA 159. The four appeals were fixed for hearing before this court on 9 April 2021.

On 17 December 2020, shortly after CA 190–CA 192 were filed on 4 November 2020, the appellant applied for the administration of the bankruptcy of the Estate. The sum in question in the application, which landed the Estate in bankruptcy, was S$1,038,511.01, the same sum owed to the appellant in BC 118, with accrued interest. On 4 March 2021, the High Court ordered the administration of the bankruptcy of the Estate. Seshadri Rajagopalan and Paresh Tribhovan Jotangia were appointed as joint and several private trustees of the...

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