Skading Anne v Yeo Kian Seng

JudgeBelinda Ang Saw Ean J
Judgment Date08 March 2005
Neutral Citation[2005] SGHC 48
Citation[2005] SGHC 48
Defendant CounselBrij Raj Rai and Ramesh Appoo (Just Law LLC)
Published date09 March 2005
Plaintiff CounselWong Chai Kin (Wong Chai Kin)
Date08 March 2005
Docket NumberMC Suit No 22561 of 2002 (Registrar's
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterMagistrates’ courts,Plaintiff applying to transfer action commenced in Magistrate's Court to District Court,Courts and Jurisdiction,Value and extent of claim exceeding Magistrate's Court's monetary limit,Order 89 r 4 Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2004 Rev Ed), ss 53, 69 Subordinate Courts Act (Cap 321, 1999 Rev Ed),Whether plaintiff entitled to transfer

8 March 2005

Judgment reserved.

Belinda Ang Saw Ean J:

1 This appeal, which concerns the transfer of proceedings from the Magistrate’s Court to the District Court, involves matters of procedure that are of general interest. On 7 August 2002, the plaintiff commenced proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court in respect of her claim for damages for personal injuries sustained on 8 August 1999 as a pillion rider on the defendant’s motorcycle. On 14 July 2004, the plaintiff applied for her action to be transferred from the Magistrate’s Court to the District Court on the ground that the value and extent of her claim for damages were likely to exceed the Magistrate’s Court monetary limit of $60,000. On 9 November 2004, the district judge affirmed the decision of the deputy registrar who, on 7 September 2004, allowed the plaintiff’s application. The defendant has appealed against the decision of the district judge.

2 Both sides drew my attention to two opposing High Court decisions on the very same narrow point that is now on appeal. They are Tan Kok Ing v Tan Swee Meng [2003] 1 SLR 657 (“Tan Kok Ing”) and Rightrac Trading v Ong Soon Heng [2003] 4 SLR 505 (“Rightrac”). In both cases, the respective actions were commenced in the Magistrate’s Court and a transfer of proceedings to the District Court was duly sought on account of an increase in the quantum of the claim beyond the monetary limit of the Magistrate’s Court, which is, currently, $60,000.

3 Counsel for the plaintiff, Ms Wong Chai Kin, argues that Rightrac should be followed whereas the defendant favours Tan Kok Ing. I gather from counsel for the defendant, Mr Brij Rai, that the deputy registrar and district judge, when faced with two conflicting decisions of courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction, applied the general rule of stare decisis and followed Rightrac, a later decision which had considered Tan Kok Ing: see Minister of Pensions v Higham [1948] 2 KB 153.

4 It is convenient to refer to ss 53 and 69 of the Subordinate Courts Act (Cap 321, 1999 Rev Ed) (“SCA”) and O 89 r 4(1) of the Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2004 Rev Ed). Section 53 provides:

A Magistrate’s Court may, either of its own motion or on the application of a party to an action, transfer the action to a District Court on the ground that some important question of law or fact is likely to arise.

Section 69 reads:

(1) The Rules Committee appointed under section 80(3) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap. 322) may make Rules of Court regulating and prescribing the procedure and the practice to be followed in the District Courts and the Magistrates’ Court in the exercise of their civil jurisdiction and any matters incidental to or relating to any such procedure or practice.

(3) Without prejudice to the generality of subsections (1) and (2), the power to make Rules of Court shall extend to —

(b) prescribing the circumstance and procedure by which proceedings may be transferred from one court to another;

Order 89 r 4(1) reads:

Where a Subordinate Court is satisfied that any proceedings in that Court ought to be tried in some other Subordinate Court, it may order the proceedings to be transferred to the other Court.

5 In Tan Kok Ing, Woo Bih Li JC (as he then was) held that to transfer an action commenced in the Magistrate’s Court to the District Court, the plaintiff had to meet the requirements in s 53 of the SCA, ie, that the proceedings were likely to raise an important question of law or fact. A transfer of proceedings based purely on the quantum of the claim could not constitute an “important question of law or fact”. As O 89 r 4(1) was subsidiary legislation, it could not override s 53 of the SCA. Order 89 r 4(1) was to be read subject to s 53 of the SCA. Woo JC did not say that O 89 r 4(1) was ultra vires, but said that it had no application when the reason for transfer did not involve an important question of law or fact. There was no inherent jurisdiction in the Magistrate’s Court outside of s 53 of the SCA to transfer an action commenced in the Magistrate’s Court to the District Court.

6 A year later, Lai Siu Chiu J in Rightrac reviewed the decision of Tan Kok Ing. Lai J, differing from Woo JC, came to the conclusion that an application to transfer proceedings from the Magistrate’s Court to the District Court on account of the quantum of the claim exceeding the Magistrate’s Court limit of $60,000 should be granted under O 89 r 4(1) as of right with the appropriate costs orders. It was noted that Woo JC had not considered s 69 of SCA. To Lai J, s 69(3)(b) of the SCA empowered the Rules Committee to prescribe the circumstances and procedure by which proceedings might be transferred within the regime of the subordinate courts and the circumstances for transfer were found in O 89 r 4(1). Above all, s 69 of the SCA was not made subject to s 53 or any other provisions of the SCA. Order 89 r 4(1) would be rendered nugatory if that sub-rule were to be read subject to s 53 of the SCA.

7 On Woo JC’s reasoning that O 89 r 4(1), being subsidiary legislation, must be read subject to the provision of s 53 of the SCA, Mr Rai referred me to s 19(c) of the Interpretation Act (Cap 1,2002 Rev Ed), which states that ...

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2 cases
  • Lee Chye Chong v SBS Transit Ltd
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 10 June 2021
    ...[1957] 1 WLR 857 (refd) Poh Huat Heng Corp Pte Ltd v Hafizul Islam Kofil Uddin [2012] 3 SLR 1003 (folld) Skading Anne v Yeo Kian Seng [2005] 2 SLR(R) 546; [2005] 2 SLR 546 (distd) Tan Kee Huat v Lim Kui Lin [2013] 1 SLR 765 (refd) Tan Kok Ing v Tan Swee Meng [2003] 1 SLR(R) 657; [2003] 1 SL......
  • Sim Yang Rikki v Goh Chong Pheng
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    ...the lower Court’s jurisdictional limit. Both parties, in their written submissions, also referred to Skading Anne v Yeo Kian Seng [2005] 2 SLR(R) 546 (“Skading Anne”),14 where the High Court allowed an appeal against an order transferring proceedings from the Magistrate’s Court to the Distr......

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