Re the Attorney-General

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeBelinda Ang Saw Ean J
Judgment Date05 March 2018
Neutral Citation[2018] SGHC 49
Citation[2018] SGHC 49
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 871 of 2017 (Summons No 5053 of 2017)
Published date20 July 2018
Plaintiff CounselKhoo Boo Jin, Elaine Liew Ling Wei and May Ng (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Defendant CounselThe respondent in person.
Subject MatterCivil Procedure,Stay of Proceedings
Hearing Date13 February 2018
Belinda Ang Saw Ean J:

Summons No 5053 of 2017 (“SUM 5053”) was taken out by Ong Wui Teck (“Mr Ong”) to obtain a stay of the hearing of the committal application (namely, Summons No 3979 of 2017 (“SUM 3979”) filed in OS 871 of 2017 (“OS 871”)) until the conclusion of OS 763 of 2014 (“OS 763/2014”) and the disposal of CA 178 of 2017 (“CA 178”). Although Mr Ong’s application made reference to “related appeals”, he had only filed CA 178. SUM 3979 (“the committal proceedings”) is listed for hearing on 13 March 2018.

On 13 February 2018, I dismissed with costs of Mr Ong’s application in SUM 5053 there were insufficient reasons to persuade this court to order a stay or an adjournment sought by Mr Ong. Costs of the application was fixed at $5,500 with $586 as disbursements.

I propose to recount below the relevant facts of this case and explain my decision with reference to what I considered to be the main reasons advanced in support of the stay application.

The law

I start with the law, which is not controversial.

State Counsel for the Attorney-General, Mr Khoo Boo Jin (“Mr Khoo”), accepted that the court has case management discretion to adjourn or stay the hearing of the committal proceedings, citing Chan Chin Cheung v Chan Fatt Cheung and ors [2010] 1 SLR 1192 at [15] in support. He then drew my attention to BNP Paribas Wealth Management v Jacob Agam and anor [2016] SGHC(I) 5, where the court took into account the bona fides of the stay application (or the lack thereof) and the need to balance the advantages and disadvantages to each of the parties, among other factors. Mr Khoo also cited Eleven Gesellschaft Zur Entwicklung und Vermarktung Von Netzwerktechonologien MBH v Boxsentry Pte Ltd [2014] SGHC 210 for the proposition that the mere existence of simultaneous proceedings did not necessarily mean that a stay would be granted as of right. I should add that the parties’ conduct is an important consideration and that the decision whether or not to grant a stay application must fundamentally depend on whether it is fair to the parties. The burden is on Mr Ong to persuade the court to stay proceedings in exercise of the court’s case management discretion.

Main reasons advanced for a stay Undivided attention

Mr Ong is a litigant in person and has no legal representation. He said that he is the personal representative of his mother’s estate in the ongoing OS 763/2014 proceedings. As there is a pending appeal, namely CA 178, Mr Ong argued that he would only be able to attend to the committal proceedings after the conclusion of OS 763/2014 and CA 178, since both matters require his undivided attention.

The question raised by Mr Khoo was whether Mr Ong has done enough to persuade the court to exercise discretion in his favour. Mr Khoo pointed out that Mr Ong had not substantiated his assertion that OS 763/2014 and CA 178 needed his undivided attention. Nothing was adduced in Mr Ong’s affidavits to show the existence of timelines to meet or that hearing dates had been given for OS 763/2014 and CA 178.

I accepted Mr Khoo’s submissions that there is nothing on the evidence to support Mr Ong’s point that CA 178 and OS 763/2014 required his undivided attention, and that he could not prepare for the committal proceedings. In fact, there is no time pressure on him in respect of the CA 178, which is an appeal against some orders made by Judicial Commissioner Pang Khang Chau in OS 763/2014 relating to a dispute involving Mr Ong and his siblings in respect of their mother’s estate. As stated, Pang JC gave various orders on 25 September 2017 and adjourned certain outstanding matters to a date to be fixed by the Registry. Two days later, on 27 September 2017, Mr Ong filed CA 178 against three matters alleged to be part of the decision given on 25 September 2017 in OS 763/2014. Pang JC has yet to release his written...

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