This article will discuss the recent repeal of the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (“RECJA”) as well as Singapore’s accession to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (“Service Convention”).
Since 2019, bills were passed in Parliament to streamline Singapore’s reciprocal enforcement regime into a single statutory regime. This is done by repealing RECJA and subsuming the same under an enhanced Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (“REFJA”).
The amendments to REFJA, aside from the addition of RECJA countries, were carried out in late 2019. Further details can be found in our previous article.
RECJA was finally repealed on 1 March 2023 and subsumed under REFJA.
Under REFJA, foreign judgments from gazetted countries may be enforced in Singapore. First, the judgment creditor will need to register the foreign judgment in the Singapore High Court. Once registered, the foreign judgment can be enforced in Singapore as if it was a judgment from the Singapore Court. The judgment debtor may apply to set aside the registration on limited grounds, including, that the foreign judgment was obtained by fraud, or an appeal (in the foreign Court) is pending.
This subsuming of RECJA under REFJA is largely procedural with no substantive changes. Interestingly, while the countries gazetted remain largely the same, we note that the list now excludes the Windward Islands and includes all the States of India (previously, the States of Kashmir and Jammu were excluded).
Note: There are also other methods through which foreign judgments may be enforced in Singapore. This includes enforcement as a debt under common law or by the Convention on Choice of Courts Agreement where the requirements are met.
Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (“Service Convention”)
The Service Convention is slated to enter into force in Singapore on 1 December 2023. This convention covers the service of judicial and extrajudicial documents abroad.
The service of court documents (especially originating documents such as writs) is a key step in legal proceedings. Where the other party is situated outside of Singapore, the myriad of local laws (in the destination country) adds an element of uncertainty and inefficiency in effecting proper service abroad.
The Service Convention aims to address this by providing a harmonised set of rules for service throughout the convention countries.
Briefly, this process entails designating a central authority to receive service requests. This central authority will then arrange for service by an appropriate means. After service is completed, the central authority will then provide confirmation via a certificate. Where service cannot be done, the central authority will also provide an explanation.
It is anticipated that the service via the central authority would be faster and cheaper than the use of diplomatic channels (otherwise known as letter rogatory).
Interestingly, the Service Convention allows countries to declare that their Courts may give judgment if no certificate of service is received after a set period (not less than six months). How (and whether) such default procedures will be implemented will be announced by the Ministry of Law in due course.
On the whole, the Service Convention is beneficial to claimants in Singapore seeking to bring proceedings against foreign defendants. To this end, it is noteworthy that major trading partners of Singapore are parties to the convention, including China and the United States.
Aside from time and cost benefits, the harmonised method of service under the Service Convention prevents proceedings from being challenged in Singapore due to validity of service. It also reduces the likelihood of such challenges when the Singapore judgment is being enforced outside of Singapore.
 In Singapore, the Central Authority is the Ministry of Law.
JTJB Singapore Office