Law Bites – November 2019
On 2 September 2019, two Bills were passed in Parliament, becoming the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments (Amendment) Act (the “Amendment Act”), which subsequently came into effect on 3 October 2019, and the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments (Repeal) Act (the “Repeal Act”) (collectively referred to as the “Acts”).
The Acts were introduced as part of Singapore’s policy reforms to increase the eligibility of Singapore’s civil judgments for recognition and enforcement overseas. Under the previous regime, the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (“REFJA”) and Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (“RECJA”) only facilitated the reciprocal enforcement of final money judgments of the ‘superior’ courts of Hong Kong, SAR, and 10 Commonwealth countries respectively.
The Acts serve to streamline Singapore’s reciprocal enforcement regime into a single statutory regime, by repealing the RECJA and subsuming the same under an expanded REFJA. More importantly, the Amendment Act also provides a new framework that expands the scope of reciprocal arrangements that Singapore can enter into with foreign countries.
Wider scope of judgments
Previously, the reciprocal enforcement regime only covered final money judgments given by superior courts in civil proceedings, as well as final judgments given by superior courts in criminal proceedings for the payment of damages or compensation to an injured party.
The Amendment Act extends the scope of REFJA to recognise and enforce the following four types of judgments:-
- Non-money judgments: This will allow Singapore courts to register foreign non-money judgments in civil proceedings, provided that enforcement would be just and convenient. Otherwise, the courts have the discretion to order registration for the monetary equivalent of the remedy.
- Lower court judgments: This will allow judgments from the Singapore State Courts to be enforced overseas.
- Interlocutory judgments: This will allow parties to preserve their rights before the final judgment.
- Judicial settlements, consent judgments and consent orders: This will provide parties certainty of finality in their disputes and helps to respect the parties’ binding commitment.
Prevention of Circumvention of Reciprocity Requirement
Further, the Amendment Act also provides that the following types of foreign judgments will not be recognised:
- A judgment given by a recognised court, on appeal from a court that is not a recognised court; and
- A judgment given by a recognised court in proceedings founded on a judgment of a court in another foreign country and having as their object the enforcement of the second-mentioned judgment.
These new provisions will act as safeguards to ensure that the reciprocity requirements in the REFJA are not circumvented.
With the growth in cross-border, multi-jurisdictional disputes, there is an increasing need to enforce local judgments overseas and vice versa. The introduction of the new reciprocal enforcement regime not only increases the types of foreign judgments in civil proceedings that can be enforced in Singapore, but also allows for the Singapore government to enter into new treaties providing for the recognition and enforceability of a wider range of Singapore judgments in foreign jurisdictions. With these developments, more countries may also be expected to be added to Singapore’s list of reciprocal enforcement partners.
In summary, the new regime will not only provide a more comprehensive range of options for judgment creditors in Singapore, but will also provide a boost in Singapore’s status as a key international dispute resolution hub.
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