Enforcement of judgments in Singapore: overview

A Q&A guide to enforcement of judgments law in Singapore.

The Q&A gives a structured overview of key practical issues concerning enforcement of judgments in this jurisdiction, including definitions and preliminary proceedings; applicable regulations/conventions; pending appeals; enforceable judgments; conditions for recognition and enforcement; proper service; public policy; provisional remedies; interest; actual enforcement; enforcing foreign judgments; enforcement proceedings; formalities; and any reform proposals.

This Q&A is part of the Enforcement of Judgments and Arbitral Awards in Commercial Matters Global Guide.

Guy Spooner, Darius Chan and Samuel Leong, Norton Rose Fulbright (Asia) LLP
Contents

Enforcement of judgments: domestic and foreign

Definitions and preliminary proceedings

1. What is the definition of judgment in your jurisdiction for the purpose of enforcement proceedings?

Domestic

A judgment is generally understood to mean a decision that concludes a particular proceeding that can be either interlocutory or the trial itself.

International

There are two broad regimes for the enforcement of foreign judgments:

  • Statutory enforcement.

  • Enforcement at common law.

With the first point there are two relevant pieces of legislation:

  • Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA).

  • Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA).

The RECJA provides for the registration and enforcement of judgments obtained from the superior courts in the UK and the following Commonwealth jurisdictions:

  • New Zealand.

  • Sri Lanka.

  • Malaysia.

  • Windward Islands.

  • Pakistan.

  • Brunei Darussalam.

  • Papua New Guinea.

  • India (except the states of Jammu and Kashmir).

  • Commonwealth of Australia (High Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia).

  • New South Wales (Supreme Court of New South Wales).

  • Queensland (Supreme Court of Queensland).

  • South Australia (Supreme Court of South Australia).

  • Tasmania (Supreme Court of Tasmania).

  • Victoria (Supreme Court of Victoria).

  • Western Australia (Family Court of Western Australia and Supreme Court of Western Australia).

  • Australian Capital Territory (Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory).

  • Norfolk Island (Supreme Court of Norfolk Island).

  • Northern Territory (Supreme Court of Northern Territory).

The REFJA allows for the enforcement of judgments and awards in foreign countries that give reciprocal treatment to judgments given in Singapore. At present, the REFJA only extends to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (only Part 1 of the REFJA is applicable).

Additionally, the Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act applies to the registration of foreign maintenance and affiliation orders made in reciprocating countries. Currently, these countries are:

  • New Zealand.

  • The UK.

  • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

  • Province of Manitoba.

  • Commonwealth of Australia and its external territories.

Not all maintenance orders can be registered under the Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act and different restrictions apply for each country.

A foreign judgment that can be registered under the RECJA can be enforced by an action at common law. However, the enforcing judgment creditor cannot recover his costs of the enforcement unless he had earlier applied for registration and the application had been refused or the court orders otherwise. This is a disincentive to encourage first resort to the registration process under the RECJA. A foreign judgment that can be refused registration under the RECJA can nonetheless be capable of enforcement by an action at common law.

A foreign judgment that can be registered under the REFJA cannot be enforced by an action at common law. Therefore, where the REFJA applies, the only option available to the judgment creditor is enforcement through registration under the statute and the enforcement action is entirely dependent on satisfying the requirements of the REFJA.

Besides the provisions of the RECJA and REFJA, other applicable statutory provisions are found in the:

  • Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act.

  • Orders 67, 67A and 69 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Rules of Court).

Under the RECJA, "judgment" is defined as "any judgment or order given or made by a court in any civil proceedings, whether before or after the passing of this Act, whereby any sum of money is made payable, and includes an award in proceedings on an arbitration if the award has, in pursuance of the law in force in the place where it was made, become enforceable in the same manner as a judgment given by a court in that place" (section 2(1), RECJA).

Under the REFJA, "judgment" is defined as "judgment or order given or made by a court in any civil proceedings, or a judgment or order given or made by a court in any criminal proceedings for the payment of a sum of money in respect of compensation or damages to an injured party" (section 2(1), REFJA).

At common law, the term "judgment" is understood in broadly similar terms to the statutory definitions. Under the common law regime for enforcement of foreign judgments, a foreign judgment creates a fresh obligation to pay the judgment debt. This is separate and distinct from the underlying cause of action giving rise to the judgment. However, the foreign judgment must satisfy the legal requirements under the law for enforcement.

As this is seen as an original action against the defendant, the court's jurisdiction over the defendant must be established in accordance with the rules for establishing jurisdiction, including personal service and submission to jurisdiction or even, given the right circumstances, service out of jurisdiction.

 
2. Is it required that a judgment is final and has conclusive effect, or are decisions in preliminary/provisional/interim proceedings recognised and enforceable?

Domestic judgments

Final decisions. Final decisions are generally enforceable.

Preliminary/provisional proceedings. Interlocutory judgments and orders are also generally enforceable.

Foreign judgments

Final decisions. Under both the statutory regime and the common law regime, in order for a foreign judgment to be enforced, the foreign judgment must be final and of conclusive effect. For a judgment to be "final and conclusive", it essentially means that the judgment cannot be reopened in the court that issued the judgment. The foreign judgment must be for a monetary sum.

A foreign judgment is treated as final and conclusive notwithstanding that it is subject to appeal (section 3(3), Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA)) as well as at common law. However, the judgment debtor can seek to set aside or adjourn the registration proceedings if an appeal is pending against the judgment (or if he shows that he is entitled to and intends to appeal against it), and the court can do so if it thinks fit in the circumstances (section 6, REFJA).

Preliminary/provisional proceedings. Decisions of a foreign court in preliminary or provisional proceedings are not enforceable if they are not final and conclusive within the meaning of the term "judgment" (see Question 1), which applies to enforcements under both the common law and the statutory regimes.

Applicable regulations/conventions

3. What conventions and regulations is your jurisdiction a contracting party to?

On 25 March 2015, Singapore signed the Hague Convention of 30 June 2005 on Choice of Court Agreements, but currently this has not been ratified.

 
4. Will enforcement be automatically refused if service of the proceedings did not conform to any applicable requirements of international treaties/regulations?

Not applicable.

Pending appeals

5. What is the effect of pending appeal proceedings where the decision is granted?

Domestic judgments

An appeal generally does not operate as a stay of execution of the decision appealed unless the appellate court so orders. A stay can be granted in "special circumstances", for example, if it can be shown that, if the damages and costs are paid, there is no reasonable probability of getting them back if the appeal succeeds.

Foreign judgments

Under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA), a foreign judgment that is pending appeal, or where the judgment debtor is entitled to and intends to appeal against it, must not be registered and enforced (section 3(2)(e), RECJA).

A foreign judgment is treated as final and conclusive notwithstanding the fact that it is subject to appeal (section 3(3), Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA)) as well as at common law. However, the judgment debtor can seek to set aside or adjourn the registration proceedings if an appeal is pending against the judgment (or if he shows that he is entitled to and intends to appeal against it), and the court can do so if it thinks fit in the circumstances (section 6, REFJA).

Enforceable judgments

6. What types of judgments in commercial matters are enforceable?

Domestic judgments

Money judgments/awards. These are enforceable.

Judgments ordering or prohibiting the doing of acts/injunctions. These are enforceable.

Declaratory judgments. These are enforceable.

Default judgments. These are enforceable.

Judgments made without notice (ex parte)/awards. These are enforceable.

Foreign decisions granting provisional measures. These are not enforceable if they are not final and conclusive.

Foreign enforcement orders/(pre-judgment) attachment orders/awards. These are enforceable only if they satisfy the statutory (or common law) requirements described above.

Other judgments. Summary judgments are enforceable.

Foreign judgments

To be enforceable at common law, a foreign judgment must be final and conclusive on the merits of the case and for a fixed or ascertainable sum of money. The foreign judgment cannot be for the enforcement, directly or indirectly, of any foreign penal, revenue or other public law.

For registration under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA), the foreign judgment must be given or made by a court in civil proceedings and for a sum of monies to be made payable. The judgment must also be final and conclusive. However, registration can be refused if the judgment debtor can show that an appeal is pending or that he is entitled to appeal and intends to do so.

Under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA), besides a foreign judgment made by a court in civil proceedings for the payment of a sum of money, a judgment by a court in criminal proceedings for payment of a sum of monies for compensation or damages to an injured party can also be registered. The judgment must also be final and conclusive.

 
7. Are any class of judgments excluded from recognition and enforcement?

Domestic judgments

No domestic judgments are excluded from recognition and enforcement.

Foreign judgments

A foreign judgment will not be enforced, whether under statute or common law, if the enforcement amounts to direct or indirect enforcement of a foreign penal, revenue, or public law. Section 3(2)(b) of the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA) states that "a sum payable in respect of taxes or other charges of a like nature or in respect of a fine or other penalty" will not be enforced under that statute.

This is in addition to the overriding rule that only judgments for the payment of a monetary sum are enforceable.

Conditions for recognition and enforcement

8. What are the conditions to enforce and recognise a judgment?

Domestic judgments

The limitation period for execution of a judgment debt is 12 years from the date of pronouncement. Leave to issue a writ of execution is required after the expiration of six years.

A judgment can be set aside where it has been obtained:

  • Irregularly with respect to the Rules of Court.

  • By fraud.

  • In default of appearance.

Foreign judgments

Court/arbitral court had jurisdiction. Under both the statutory regime and the common law, the court where the judgment was given must have jurisdiction (section 3(2), Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA); section 5(1)(a)(ii), Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA)).

Defendant had proper notice of the proceedings. Proper notice is generally required as a condition for the enforcement of judgments, both under the statutory regime and at common law (section 3(2)(c), RECJA; section 5(1)(a)(iii), REFJA). The general provisions relating to public policy also apply here, since at common law, a breach of natural justice can be a ground for refusing to enforce the foreign judgment.

No incompatibility with public policy. This is both a condition for the enforcement of foreign judgments at common law and under the statutory regime (section 3(2)(f), RECJA; section 5(1)(a)(v), REFJA) as well as for the enforcement of awards (section 31(4)(b), International Arbitration Act (Cap. 143A) (IAA)).

Reciprocity. Reciprocity is not expressly stated as a condition for the enforcement of foreign judgments (both under the common law and under the statutory regime), or for the enforcement of foreign awards. When applying for enforcement, the judgment creditor is not required to demonstrate that there is reciprocal treatment of Singapore judgments or awards in the country where the foreign judgment or award was issued.

However, for both the RECJA and REFJA, it will be apparent from the names of these statutes that the idea of reciprocity underlies them. Indeed, both the RECJA and REFJA are only extended to cover foreign judgments where the foreign country affords substantial reciprocity of treatment to Singapore judgments in its jurisdiction (section 5(1), RECJA; section 3(1), REFJA), although the enforcing party is not required to prove this in the enforcement proceedings. The minster can also direct by order that no proceedings are to be entertained in Singapore in relation to the registration of a foreign judgment to which the REFJA extends, if it appears to the minister that the treatment accorded to Singapore judgments in that foreign country is "substantially less favourable" than that accorded by the courts to the judgments of the superior courts of that foreign country (section 12, REFJA).

No conflicting domestic or foreign judgment exists. At common law, where the foreign judgment that is sought to be enforced conflicts with an earlier Singapore or other foreign judgment, the foreign judgment at issue cannot be enforced. This is on the assumption that the earlier other foreign judgment is enforceable at common law. The REFJA adopts a similar position (section 5(1)(b), REFJA). There is no express provision to the same effect for the RECJA, although the later foreign judgment sought to be enforced can be denied enforcement on other grounds, for example, it is not "just and convenient" to enforce the later foreign judgment (section 3(1), RECJA).

Judgment/award is final as to its effects. See above.

Limitation period. Under the RECJA, the limitation period is within 12 months from the date of the judgment, although the court has the discretion to extend this period. Under the REFJA, the limitation period is within six years after the date of the judgment, or after the date of the last judgment given in any appeal proceedings against the judgment.

Under the common law regime, the Singapore Court of Appeal has held that the applicable limitation period is six years.

Other conditions. Fraud is a ground to refuse the enforcement of a foreign judgment, under both the statutory regime (section 3(2)(d), RECJA; section 5(1)(a)(iv), REFJA) and at common law.

 
9. What are the grounds for refusing recognition and enforcement?

Domestic judgments

The grounds for refusing recognition and enforcement arise where the judgment was obtained irregularly with respect to the Rules of Court or where it was obtained by fraud.

Foreign judgments

Breach of natural justice. If a foreign judgment was obtained in breach of natural justice, it will not be recognised or enforced. The law of the forum determines whether there has been such a breach. Generally, natural justice encompasses the rule against bias as well as the rule that the parties bound by a judgment must have had a reasonable opportunity to be heard.

The question in every case is whether there has been a breach of substantial justice, as opposed to mere procedural irregularities. If there had been an opportunity to correct the defect in the procedure in the foreign country, the complaining party is generally expected to avail himself of that opportunity.

Estoppel. Foreign judgments are not recognised or unenforceable if it results in inconsistency with a prior local judgment

A foreign judgment will not be recognised or enforced if this is inconsistent with a prior local judgment that gives effect to the foreign judgment. If the foreign judgment is given before the local proceedings on the same matter reaches a conclusion, the foreign judgment can raise an estoppel and therefore pre-empt any local decision on the matter.

Generally, the first in time of two inconsistent but valid and binding foreign judgments prevails.

If there are two valid and binding foreign judgments that are inconsistent with one another, it appears to be the general rule that the first in time prevails. Therefore, the earlier judgment creates an estoppel against the recognition of the later.

However, nothing prevents a possible cross-estoppel, that is, in appropriate circumstances it can be that the later judgment creates an estoppel against the recognition of the earlier. In the interest of finality of litigation, even if a point is not strictly caught by a prior estoppel in a foreign judgment between the same parties or their privies, it can be an abuse of process in the local proceedings to raise points that should have been raised in the prior foreign proceedings.

Contravention of a fundamental public policy of the forum. A foreign judgment is not recognised or enforced if its recognition or enforcement contravenes a fundamental public policy of the forum. Generally, this fundamental public policy has to be more deep-rooted than the domestic public policy that the court generally applies in domestic cases. The recognition or enforcement of a foreign judgment is not against fundamental public policy merely because the Singapore court would have reached a different conclusion on the merits of the case. A public policy derived from statute generally has greater weight than common law public policy.

Direct or indirect enforcement of foreign penal, revenue or public laws. A foreign judgment is not enforced if it amounts to the direct or indirect enforcement of foreign penal, revenue or other public law. The award of exemplary damages by a foreign court to the successful claimant is not by itself penal. Generally, only sums forfeited to the state are considered penal.

Fraud. A foreign judgment obtained by fraud can be impeached in local proceedings. There must be some dishonesty or deception involved.

Fraud can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Fraud is intrinsic when it occurs within court proceedings, for example, the giving or procuring of perjured or forged evidence. Fraud is extrinsic when it occurs outside court proceedings, for example, in the bribing or kidnapping of witnesses or in fraudulently inducing the default of the defendant.

The rule for a foreign judgment obtained by intrinsic fraud is the same as that for pleading fraud to unravel a local judgment. Generally, there must be:

  • Newly discovered evidence of the fraud.

  • Evidence that could not have reasonably been produced at the original trial.

  • Evidence that is so material that its production would probably have affected the outcome.

However, if the fraud is extrinsic, then the foreign judgment can be impeached even if no freshly discovered evidence is produced. The rationale is that if the foreign court had been in a position to decide for itself whether to believe the evidence (in intrinsic fraud cases), the local court must not question the foreign court's judgment.

The party challenging the foreign judgment for fraud must produce credible evidence in the first instance. Otherwise the application to challenge it is likely to be struck out at the threshold as an abuse of process. Also, if the question of fraud had been raised on appeal in the foreign court, although technically it could not raise an estoppel against the issue of fraud (because whether it is capable of raising such an estoppel is in issue), it can amount to an abuse of process to keep raising the same challenge, especially if the evidence is limited.

Also, whether a foreign judgment had been obtained by fraud can be the subject of an estoppel. Therefore, if the party seeking to be bound by the foreign judgment had challenged that judgment for fraud in another foreign country and that challenge failed, the second foreign judgment (if not itself challenged) could raise an estoppel on the point that the first judgment had not been obtained by fraud.

Proper service

10. Does the enforcing court review service of the proceedings? Are there any conditions regarding service of the proceedings that must have been satisfied/complied with?

Domestic judgments

With domestic judgments, the enforcing court does not review service of the proceedings.

Foreign judgments

The court does not review the service and subject it to the requirements of service under the law. Indeed, it appears that the relevant methods of service are those of the foreign court (section 3(2)(c), Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA)). A similar scheme appears to be contemplated by the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA) (section 4(3)(b), REFJA). However, the service requirements of the foreign court must satisfy the other conditions for enforcement stated in the statutes. For example, under the REFJA, it must be shown that the service allows the judgment debtor to receive notice of the proceedings before the foreign court in sufficient time to enable him to defend the proceedings (section 5(1)(a)(iii), REFJA).

However, ultimately the question of whether the foreign court is a court of competent jurisdiction in the matter concerned is likely to be a matter of law.

Public policy

11. Does public policy include matters of substantive law?

The public policy notion encompasses both matters of substance as well as procedural deficiencies. However, generally, public policy at private international law has a narrower meaning than in domestic law.

 
12. Can the application of a law that is different to that applicable under the choice of law rules of the enforcing court be attacked on the basis of public policy?

The application of a law that is different to that applicable under the choice of law rules of the enforcing court generally cannot be attacked on the basis of public policy.

 
13. In what circumstances and against which judgments has the principle of public policy generally been applied?

The courts have previously refused to enforce gambling debts disguised as loans from the gambling operator to the gambler. However, in both Burswood Nominees Ltd v Liao Eng Kiat [2004] SGHC 64 and Poh Soon Kiat v Dessert Palace Inc (trading as Caesars Palace) [2009] SGCA 60, the Singapore High Court and Singapore Court of Appeal respectively clarified that enforcing gambling debts per se is no longer contrary to public policy.

Provisional remedies

14. Is it possible to apply for provisional measures from the enforcing court pending the enforcement proceedings?

Domestic judgments

It is possible to apply for provisional measures from the enforcing court pending the enforcement proceedings for domestic judgments.

Foreign judgments

It is possible to apply for provisional measures from the enforcing court pending the enforcement proceedings for foreign judgments.

Interest

15. Is the judgment creditor entitled to interest? If so, on what basis is it calculated?

Domestic judgment

Generally, interest on judgment debts is calculated at 5.33% per annum on a simple basis.

Foreign judgment

Interest under the laws of the foreign court run until the application for enforcement is allowed and then the interest applicable to local judgments above applies.

Actual enforcement

16. What is the enforcement procedure when a declaration of enforceability is granted?

Domestic judgments

Execution processes include:

  • Writs of seizure and sale.

  • Writs of possession.

  • Garnishee orders.

  • Applications for examination of judgment debtors.

Foreign judgments

Under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA) and Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA), after a declaration of enforceability has been granted, execution must not be issued on a registered judgment until the expiration of the period within which an application can be made to set aside the registration. If an application is made to set aside the registration of a judgment, the judgment cannot be executed until the application is finally determined.

The foreign judgment can be enforced by various means after the appropriate regime is satisfied (RECJA, REFJA or common law). The judgment is enforced in similar a way to a domestic judgment described above.

 
17. Can defendants oppose the enforcement procedure, and if so, on what grounds/defences?

Domestic judgments

There are conditions that have to be met for a particular means of enforcement to be used, and these vary from one enforcement method to another. It may be possible to oppose the actual enforcement on the grounds that these conditions for execution are not met.

Foreign judgments

See above.

 

Enforcing foreign judgments

Jurisdiction

18. Is the enforcing court entitled to consider the grounds on which the foreign court assumed jurisdiction (and if so, on what jurisdictional grounds can enforcement be refused)?

Personal jurisdiction

For a foreign judgment to be enforced or recognised, the original court must have personal jurisdiction over the defendant.

Personal jurisdiction is usually established by:

  • Presence or residence within the jurisdiction of the original court.

  • Submission.

The presence of an individual within the jurisdiction, even temporary presence, is a sufficient basis for finding personal jurisdiction for enforcement or recognition at common law. However, this is insufficient under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA) and Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA), which require residence.

For corporations, the question of presence or residence is more complicated. Generally, a corporation is treated as having a presence or residence sufficient for personal jurisdiction if it:

  • Is incorporated in that jurisdiction.

  • Carries on business or has a fixed place of business in the jurisdiction.

The RECJA adopts the common law approach to presence and residence for corporations. However, the REFJA imposes a test of principal place of business or having an office or place of business through which the transaction in dispute was affected.

Submission must be voluntary and can be by express agreement or implied by conduct. A defendant has voluntarily submitted to a jurisdiction if he has taken a step in the proceedings that necessarily requires that he waives objections to the jurisdiction of the court in question. This step can include pleading the merits of his defence or advancing his own claims and counterclaims. There cannot be voluntary submission if the defendant merely takes steps to object to jurisdiction or is compelled to defend his or her property.

Subject matter jurisdiction

At common law, it is not certain whether the lack of subject-matter jurisdiction by the foreign court is fatal to an action to enforce a foreign judgment. If the lack of subject-matter jurisdiction can be demonstrated that would render the foreign judgment unenforceable in the foreign jurisdiction, the action for enforcement can be refused.

The RECJA provides that there cannot be registration when the original court acted without jurisdiction. The REFJA provides that registration of an applicable foreign judgment can be set aside if the courts of the country of the original court had no jurisdiction in the circumstances of the case.

 
19. If the foreign court assumed jurisdiction on the basis of an exorbitant ground of jurisdiction, can the enforcing court review the judgment on that ground?

Exorbitant ground of jurisdiction

Normally the court only refuses to register the judgment where the foreign court issuing the judgment had no jurisdiction to do so. The court will not then go on to review the judgment.

Voluntary acknowledgement

Submission to jurisdiction is a ground for international jurisdiction under the law. Accordingly, the enforcing court finds that the foreign court had jurisdiction based on submission.

Enforcement proceedings

20. Is the enforcement of a foreign judgment subject to formal proceedings or simplified procedures?

Enforcement of foreign judgements

There is a statutory regime for registration under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA) and Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA).

Enforcement of foreign arbitral awards

For foreign arbitral awards, enforcement is performed via the UN Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (New York Convention (Part III, International Arbitration Act (Cap. 143A)(IAA))

 
21. Are applicants required to institute a new action on the judgment in the form of main proceedings instead of making an application for enforcement based on the judgment?

If the foreign judgment is a judgment for money that emanates from the superior court of a country listed in the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA) or the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA), enforcement is by registration. There is no need to institute a new action on the original cause of action in the form of main proceedings.

If the foreign judgment is a judgment for money that emanates from the superior court of a country that is not listed in the RECJA or the REFJA, then indirect enforcement can be sought by starting a new suit against the defendant (judgment debtor) in Singapore based on the common law cause of action of debt, where the foreign monetary judgment is relied on as evidence of that debt. This is not a new action on the original cause of action. The merits of the original action in the foreign court will not be re-litigated. Instead, this is a more simplified action in the course of action of debt.

 
22. What is the general outline of enforcement proceedings?

Appointing counsel

If the person seeking enforcement is not a natural person (for example, it is a company), then it is necessary to appoint an attorney for the enforcement proceedings.

If the person seeking enforcement is a natural person, he has the option to apply in personam (without an attorney). However, this is very rarely done.

Security for costs

The court can order security for costs in appropriate circumstances with respect to the enforcement of foreign judgments under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA) and Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA) (Order 67, rule 4, Rules of Court of Singapore).

Jurisdiction and venue

Depending on the amount claimed, an action brought to enforce a foreign judgment at common law can be brought in the:

  • Magistrates’ Court (for claims of SG$60,000 and under).

  • District Court (for claims of SG$250,000 and under).

  • High Court (for claims above SG$250,000).

Applications for registration of foreign judgments under the RECJA and the REFJA have to be made to the High Court of Singapore.

Adversarial or without notice (ex parte)

With respect to the enforcement of judgments under the RECJA and REFJA, enforcement proceedings must be made ex parte (Order 67, rule 2, Rules of Court). But if enforcement is ordered, the order must be served on the defendant and the defendant is given time to apply to court to set aside the enforcement order.

Timing

Generally it must be done within one month, but this can be longer if the defendant applies to set aside the registration or enforcement order.

Fees

An application for enforcement under the RECJA and REFJA is by an ex parte originating summons, supported by an affidavit exhibiting the judgment. Therefore, court fees in connection with the filing of these documents are generally payable. The exact quantum of fees for filing an originating summons to commence the process depends on various factors, but usually does not exceed US$2,000.

Similarly, an application for enforcement of a foreign award under the International Arbitration Act (Cap. 143A) (IAA) can be made ex parte and must be supported by an affidavit exhibiting the arbitration agreement and the arbitration award. Therefore, court fees in connection with the filing of these documents are generally payable for the enforcement of an award and are similar to the fees for registering a judgment.

For the enforcement of a judgment at common law, the claimant must file a new suit against the defendant (judgment debtor) in Singapore based on the common law cause of action of debt (see Question 1). This action requires the filing and service of the appropriate form of originating process (and related documents). Accordingly, court fees in connection with the filing of these documents are generally payable for the enforcement of foreign judgments at common law.

Appeals

An application to register a foreign judgment under the RECJA and the REFJA is by way of ex parte originating summons. A decision to allow registration can be challenged by way of an application to set aside the registration. A foreign judgment enforced by an action at common law can be appealed the same way as with any other decisions of the courts.

 
23. Can the enforcing court review the foreign judgment as to its substance if all formalities were complied with and if the judgment meets all requirements?

The enforcing court does not have any power to review the foreign judgment (that is, to review the merits of the case). However, under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA), any foreign judgment is not automatically enforceable even if it meets all requirements and the court must exercise its discretion on the basis of justice and convenience (section 3(1), RECJA). This discretion does not exist under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA) the court must order the foreign judgment to be registered if the requirements laid down by the legislation are fulfilled.

Formalities

24. What are the documentary requirements for enforcement?

Documentary requirements

When enforcing a judgment under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA) or Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA), the judgment must be exhibited (Order 67, rule 3, Rules of Court of Singapore).

Authentication

Enforcement under the RECJA or REFJA can be done with the original judgment. Where it is the copy of the judgment that is exhibited as part of the application to enforce, there is a need to verify, certify or otherwise duly authenticate the copy of the judgment (Order 67, rule 3, Rules of Court of Singapore). This can be done by a notary public in a Commonwealth country or a Singapore consular officer.

 
25. Is it required to translate the judgments into the language of the state where enforcement is requested?

Translations

The judgment must be translated into English (Order 67, rule 3, Rules of Court of Singapore).

Other languages

English only.

Certification

A translated judgment must be certified by a notary public or authenticated by affidavit (Order 67, rule 3, Rules of Court of Singapore).

 
26. What is the format of the application for a declaration of enforceability?

In enforcing a judgment under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA) or Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA), the application must be made by ex parte with the originating summons supported by an affidavit.

 
27. What information must be included in the application regarding the judgment, the claim as awarded in the judgment, the facts and legal grounds of the case, and that the judgment is no longer appealable?

Judgment

In an enforcement application of a judgment under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA) or the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA), the fact and status of the judgment must be stated. In particular, the supporting affidavit must state that, at the date of the application, the judgment has not been satisfied, or the amount in respect of it remains satisfied.

Also, if the application is to enforce a judgment under the RECJA, the supporting affidavit must state that the judgment does not fall within any of the cases in which a judgment cannot be ordered to be registered (section 3(2), RECJA).

If the application is to enforce a judgment under the REFJA, the supporting affidavit must state that:

  • At the time of application, the judgment can be enforced by execution in the country that issued the judgment.

  • If the judgment were registered, the registration would not be (or be liable to be) set aside under section 5 of the REFJA (which lists the grounds upon which the judgment’s registration must or may be set aside).

The supporting affidavit must also specify the amount of interest due under the judgment up to the time of registration under the law of the country of the court issuing the judgment. The supporting affidavit must be accompanied by any other evidence on the enforceability of the judgment by execution in the country that issued the judgment and of the law of that country under which any interest has become due under the judgment (if so required by the relevant Order pertaining to the country of the court that issued the judgment).

Under both the RECJA and the REFJA, the merits of the case leading to the judgment do not need to be stated.

 
28. Is it required to convert the value of the judgment into the local currency?

It is not necessary to convert the value of the judgment into the local currency.

 

Proposals for reform

29. Are any changes to the law currently under consideration or being proposed?

There are no changes to the law currently under consideration or being proposed.

 

Online resources

Singapore Statutes Online (SSO)

W http://statutes.agc.gov.sg

Description. SSO is the official website for Singapore's legislation. SSO is owned by the government and is managed by the Legislation Division of the Attorney-General's Chambers of Singapore.


Contributor profiles

Guy Spooner

Norton Rose Fulbright (Asia) LLP

T +65 6309 5305
F +65 6224 5758
E guy.spooner@nortonrosefulbright.com
W nortonrosefulbright.com

Professional qualifications. England and Wales, solicitor; Hong Kong, solicitor; Australia, barrister and solicitor

Areas of practice. Dispute resolution.

Darius Chan

Norton Rose Fulbright (Asia) LLP

T +65 6309 5301
F +65 6224 5758
E darius.chan@nortonrosefulbright.com
W nortonrosefulbright.com

Professional qualifications. Singapore, advocate and solicitor; England and Wales, solicitor; New York, Attorney-at-Law

Areas of practice. Dispute resolution.

Samuel Leong

Norton Rose Fulbright (Asia) LLP

T +65 6309 5302
F +65 6224 5758
E samuel.leong@nortonrosefulbright.com
W nortonrosefulbright.com

Professional qualifications. Malaysia, advocate and solicitor

Areas of practice. Dispute resolution.


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