Wee Soon Kim Anthony v The Law Society of Singapore (No 3)

CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date21 August 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGCA 54
Citation[2001] SGCA 54
Subject MatterRights,Whether court has reasons for court to exercise inherent jurisdiction under O 92 r 4 to allow intervention,Application by appellant for order compelling Law Society to appoint disciplinary committee to investigate complaint,Whether two solicitors have right to intervene,Legal Profession,Dismissal of appellant's complaint against two solicitors,O 15 r 6(2)(b) & O 92 r 4 Rules of Court,Application by two solicitors to intervene
Plaintiff CounselYang Lih Shying (Khattar Wong & Partners)
Defendant CounselYim Wing Kuan Jimmy SC and Siraj Omar (Drew & Napier)
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 600018 of
Date21 August 2001
Published date19 September 2003

(delivering the judgment of the court): This appeal raises a point of procedure on the right of intervention of a solicitor in relation to an application made by a complainant who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Council of the Law Society of Singapore, pursuant to s 96 of the Legal Profession Act (`the Act`).


By a letter dated 18 August 1999, the appellant in the present appeal (hereinafter referred to as `Mr Wee`) complained to the Law Society against two advocates and solicitors, namely, Davinder Singh SC and Hri Kumar (`the two solicitors`). The gist of the complaint relates to the preparation of affidavits for clients in relation to judicial proceedings and which affidavits allegedly contained false statements. The Council of the Law Society decided that the letter of complaint disclosed no information of misconduct that must be referred to the Chairman of the Inquiry Committees under s 85(1) of the Act.

Mr Wee was dissatisfied with the decision of the Council and commenced OS 37/2000 seeking a declaration that the Council should have referred the letter of complaint to the Chairman of the Inquiry Panel in accordance with s 85(1).
In that application the High Court judge ruled that of the four alleged `falsehoods` set out in the letter, three were `baseless and frivolous` and did not fall within s 85(1). As for the fourth alleged `falsehood` he felt that it should be referred to the Chairman of the Inquiry Panel and accordingly so ordered.

An inquiry committee (`IC`) was constituted to investigate into the fourth alleged falsehood.
After due inquiry, the IC submitted its report and recommended that it be dismissed. Pursuant to s 87, the Council, having considered the report, determined that there was no case for a formal investigation by a disciplinary committee (`DC`). It is against this determination of the Council that Mr Wee has applied, by way of OS 1573/2000, and pursuant to s 96(1), to a judge for an order compelling the Society to apply to the Chief Justice for the appointment of a DC to investigate that complaint. It is in relation to OS 1573/2000 that the two solicitors have applied to intervene. The assistant registrar granted the application. The judge on appeal affirmed that decision. Mr Wee has taken it further before us.

For completeness, we ought to mention that in relation to the other three alleged `falsehoods` in the letter of complaint alluded to in [para ]3 above, and which was dismissed by the High Court, the matter went on appeal before the Court of Appeal.
The court allowed the appeal, directing that the complaint relating to the other three alleged falsehoods be also referred to the Chairman of the Inquiry Panel: see Wee Soon Kim Anthony v Law Society of Singapore [2001] 2 SLR 145 .

Basis of application to intervene

In the court below, counsel for the two solicitors argued that they were entitled to intervene pursuant to O 15 r 6(2)(b)(i), namely, that they are persons whose presence before the court is necessary to ensure that all matters in the cause or matter may be effectually and completely determined and adjudicated upon.

Decision below

The learned judge below was of the view that, in an application under s 96, one of the real substantive parties was the solicitor against whom the complaint was made. The application would be of serious consequence to the solicitor and if the matter could be `nipped` in the bud, namely, that the court was persuaded not to allow the complaint to go to a DC, the solicitor concerned would have avoided the inconvenience, expenses, and anxiety of a hearing before the DC and the risk of an adverse outcome against him. Therefore, the solicitors concerned would have, at least, as great an interest as the complainant has in a s 96 application.

However, without deciding whether O 15 r 6(2)(b)(i), or even (ii), was applicable, the judge held that the court had an inherent jurisdiction to allow a party to intervene if the justice of the case required and that the jurisdiction was not confined to the illustrations given in para 15/6/12 of the Supreme Court Practice 1999.
He was of the opinion that this was a `just case` to allow the two solicitors to intervene.

Order 15 rule 6(2)(b)

Before us, the parties have submitted on the question of the applicability of O 15 r 6(2)(b)(i) and (ii) and on the inherent jurisdiction of the court, in determining whether the two solicitors should be allowed to intervene. We shall consider each of the bases in turn.

It may be convenient for us at this juncture to set out the provisions of O 15 r 6(2)(b)(i) and (ii):

Subject to the provisions of this Rule, at any stage of the proceedings in any cause or matter, the Court may, on such terms as it thinks just and either of its own motion or on application -

(a) ...

(b) order any or the following persons to be added as a party, namely:

(i) any person who ought to have been joined as a party or whose presence before the Court is necessary to ensure that all matters in the cause or matter may be effectually and completely determined and adjudicated upon; or

(ii) any person between whom and any party to the cause or matter there may exist a question or issue arising out of or relating to or connected with any relief or remedy claimed in the cause or matter which in the opinion of the Court it would be just and convenient to determine as between him and that party as well as between the parties to the cause or matter.

Mr Yim, counsel for the respondents (the two solicitors), submits that in this instance both limbs of r 6(2)(b) are applicable.
In relation to the first limb he says that it is necessary for the solicitors to be joined as parties in the originating summons to ensure that all matters in that action may be effectually and completely determined and adjudicated upon. As an application to the High Court under s 96 is really a request to the court to review the decision of the Council and of the IC (where the Council has adopted the recommendation of the IC), allowing the intervention would enable the court to `obtain a more complete picture of the facts, circumstances and legal arguments of the case`.

In relation to the second limb, Mr Yim submits that there exists a question or issue between Mr Wee, the Law Society and the two solicitors.
The allegation of misconduct in the complaint is a matter of concern to all three parties. It would be just and convenient for the two solicitors to be heard. There would be no prejudice to Mr Wee or the Law Society. In this regard, counsel refers to the expenses which would have to be incurred by the two solicitors before the DC and emotional trauma which the solicitors would have to go through even though they may eventually be vindicated before the DC. Thus, it is important that the court hearing the originating summons should have the fullest assistance from all concerned parties.

The scope and application of the first limb has been considered in numerous cases.
It would suffice if we refer to only two. In Pegang Mining Co v Choong Sam [1969] 2 MLJ 52 , a decision of the Privy Council on appeal from Malaysia, the court...

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