Overseas Union Insurance Ltd v Home and Overseas Insurance Co Ltd and another application

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeTay Yong Kwang JC
Judgment Date23 April 2002
Neutral Citation[2002] SGHC 83
Citation[2002] SGHC 83
Subject Matters 21 Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 1999 Ed),Civil Procedure,District judge ruling leave to appeal necessary and refusing leave,Whether leave to appeal necessary,Appeals,Words and Phrases,Whether leave to appeal should be granted,s 50 Interpretation Act (Cap 1, 1999 Ed),O 2 r 1, O 3 r 2(5) & O 55C r 2 Rules of Court,Plaintiffs seeking to appeal to High Court against district judge's decision relating to costs,'Amount in dispute',Appeal by plaintiffs to High Court against district judge's ruling with alternative application for leave to appeal,Whether application for leave out of time,Whether mode should be appeal or application for leave,Defendants applying to strike out appeal,Leave
Published date17 November 2003
Plaintiff CounselLiew Teck Huat (Niru & Co)
Defendant CounselP Jeya Putra (Joseph Tan Jude Benny)


(REG NO. 195600074R) ... Plaintiffs


(REG NO. 513813) ... Defendants


In the matter of Section 2(1) of the Supreme Court of
Judicature Act (Cap 322) and Order 55C Rule 2 of the Rules
of Court (Cap 322)


In the matter of DC Suit No. 51197 of 1999, Bill of Costs
No. 600864 of 2001, Summons in Chmabers No. 600034 of
2002 in the Subordinate Courts of the Republic of Singapore
and Notice of Appeal to Judge of the High Court in Chambers
No. 600004 of 2002


(UK REG NO. 513813) ... Applicants


(REG NO. 195600074R) ... Respondents

Citation: DC Suit No 51197 of 1999; RAS 600004 of 2002
Jurisdiction: Singapore
Date: 2002:04:23
Court: High Court
Coram: Tay Yong Kwang, JC

Liew Teck Huat (Niru & Co) for Plaintiffs/Respondents

P. Jeya Putra (Joseph Tan Jude Benny) for Defendants/Applicants


Civil Procedure – Appeal – Appeal from the Subordinate Court to the High Court on taxation of bill of costs – Application of s 21 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322)


There were two matters before the court. The first was Registrar’s Appeal No 600004 of 2002, which was an appeal by the plaintiffs against a decision made by a District Judge in chambers that leave to appeal was required, together with an alternative application for leave to appeal if leave was necessary. The other was Originating Motion 600011 of 2002, which was the defendant’s application to strike out the said appeal. Both concerned the scope of section 21 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322) (‘SCJA’) in appeals relating to costs.

The background to the present matters was this: pursuant to the conclusion of a trial in the Subordinate Courts, the trial judge in his capacity as a Deputy Registrar taxed the bill of costs for the trial. Consequently, after a review of the taxation, the plaintiffs applied to a District Judge in Chambers (‘DJ’) for a further review of the decision, which appeal was dismissed on 2 January 2002. On 8 January 2002, the plaintiffs appealed to the High Court against the latest decision dismissing their review. However, they were directed by the DJ to seek leave to appeal first as the amount of costs in dispute was less than the statutory minimum specified in s 21 of the SCJA. The plaintiffs complied and applied on 9 January 2002 for such leave. On 28 January 2002, the DJ heard the plaintiffs’ application for leave to appeal. He refused the plaintiffs’ leave. Arising from this, the plaintiffs filed their Registrar’s Appeal on 6 February 2002 and the defendants filed their Originating Motion on 11 February 2002.

The defendants’ arguments that the Registrar’s Appeal should be struck out was this: Under O 55C r 2 of the Rules of Court, leave to appeal under s 21 of the SCJA must be obtained by filing an application to the DJ within seven days of the order, and in the event that leave was refused, by filing an application with the High Court within seven days of the refusal. What the plaintiffs did was not to file an application with the High Court within seven days of the DJ’s refusal, but rather to appeal against his decision, which was filed outside the seven-day requirement. The matter was therefore before the High Court through the wrong procedure and was also filed out of time.

As for the plaintiffs’ arguments, they argued that they were appealing against the DJ’s decision that leave to appeal was necessary, and hence O 55C r 2 did not apply. Alternatively, the technical irregularity should be disregarded in the interests of justice as permitted by O 2 r 1.


(1) It was plain that in refusing leave to appeal, the DJ was proceeding on the basis that such leave was necessary. The plaintiffs could not be said to have accepted the position that leave was necessary by making the application before the DJ as they had been directed to do so. The issue was argued before him at any rate. The ruling that leave was required was not made on 8 January but on 28 January 2002. As they were appealing against the very foundation of his ruling, that is, leave was required in the first place, they could do so by way of the Registrar’s Appeal. The Registrar’s Appeal had to be issued within 14 days after the DJ’s decision under O 55C rule 1(4). That was complied with (see ¶ 13). The alternative prayer that leave should be granted in any case ought to have proceeded as a separate application pursuant to O 55C rule 2, as the defendants contended. However, since no injustice was done on the facts and the defendants were not misled as to the nature of the application, it was appropriate that the procedural irregularity should be overlooked (see ¶ 14).

(2) As for the issue of whether Registrar’s Appeal, thus treated as the plaintiffs’ application for leave if it was ruled that leave was necessary, was filed within seven days of the refusal by the DJ, this issue was answered in the positive. In the present case, s 21 of the SCJA made no mention of the time period for applying for leave to the DJ or to the High Court. Following Thomas & Betts (S E Asia) Pte Ltd v Ou Tin Joon & Anor [1998] 1 SLR 913, since the SCJA was silent as to time, the period of time for making an application under the SCJA would be computed in accordance with the Rules of Court. The period of seven days in O 55C r 2 must therefore be reckoned in accordance with O 3 r 2(5) and not the Interpretation Act (Cap 1) (see ¶¶ 15 and 16).

(3) Leave to appeal was necessary in the present instance. Following Augustine v Goh Siam Yong [1992] 1 SLR 767 and Pandian Marimuthu v Guan Leong Construction Pte Ltd [2001] 3 SLR 400, in the case of taxation of bills of costs, as the present case related to, the ‘amount in dispute’ was not the substantive claim in the action. If it were so, parties would be able to appeal to the High Court against any award of a nominal amount for a particular item in a bill in any action where the ‘amount in dispute’ in the substantive claim was above $50,000. This could not have been the intention of s 21 of the SCJA which conferred an unqualified right of appeal only in cases where the subject matter was worth more than the minimum amount stipulated. Taxation of costs was the ‘matter’ contemplated in s 21 and the ‘amount in dispute’ pertained to costs and this must be computed in the way directed by the Court of Appeal in Augustine v Goh Siam Yong (see ¶¶ 17 to 22). The amount in dispute in the present case was $10,619.65, and that was clearly below the prescribed minimum in s...

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