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SINGAPORE: Court Proceedings in New Normal: Successful Application for Leave for Both Foreign Factual and Expert Witnesses to Testify via Video-Link

While Singapore has settled well into the present "new normal" of Phase Two of reopening the economy, travel restrictions and other preventative measures are still largely in place, and may continue to be in place for the foreseeable future. Yet the wheels of justice must continue to turn. Access to justice (fundamental to the rule of law) must continue to be provided by an agile legal system. In circumstances where foreign witnesses are unable to physically attend trial, what considerations will the courts take into account when deciding whether to grant leave for them to give evidence via video-link?

To put matters in context, giving evidence by video-link is, per se, not a new issue. Guiding principles have been established in legislation and earlier cases over the last three decades. However, how such principles are to be applied against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a novel point. Necessity is the mother of invention, and so courts worldwide have devised creative but legally sound solutions that do not cause prejudice to any party.

In the lead up to a recent civil trial (currently part-heard and resuming in late October), conducted entirely remotely, Gregory Vijayendran SC, Kevin Tan, Devathas Satianathan, and Low Weng Hong from Rajah & Tann Singapore's dispute resolution team successfully obtained leave from the Singapore High Court for the Defendant's foreign factual and expert witnesses to give evidence by video-link in a contested application. This was despite the Plaintiff's strenuous objections.

This Update elucidates the considerations that the Court took into account when granting such leave.

 

Singapore | Dispute Resolution | 19 October 2020
REGIONAL: COVID-19 and Remote Arbitration: How are Major Arbitral Institutes Adapting to the New Normal?

As the famous maxim goes, justice delayed is justice denied. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, twelve arbitral institutions came together on 16 April 2020 to publish a joint statement on supporting "international arbitration's ability to contribute to stability and foreseeability in a highly unstable environment, including by ensuring that pending cases may continue and that parties may have their cases heard without undue delay."

Here, we take a look at some issues with remote arbitration, and what steps the following six major arbitral institutions ("Arbitral Institutions") are taking to manage cases during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Singapore International Arbitration Centre ("SIAC");
  2. Indonesia National Board of Arbitration (Badan Arbitrase Nasional Indonesia ("BANI"));
  3. China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission ("CIETAC");
  4. Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre ("HKIAC");
  5. International Chamber of Commerce International Court of Arbitration ("ICC Court"); and
  6. London Court of International Arbitration ("LCIA").
Regional | Dispute Resolution | 17 August 2020
PHILIPPINES: Supreme Court Announces the Resumption of Court Operations Nationwide

On 29 May 2020, the Supreme Court of the Philippines ("SC") directed the resumption of court operation in the country with the easing of movement restrictions and placing most parts of the country under general community quarantine ("GCQ"). The SC also announced that the hearings through videoconferencing shall continue in GCQ-affected areas.

Philippines | Dispute Resolution | 13 June 2020
INDONESIA: BANI Moves to Arbitration Online

At the height of the Coronavirus crisis in March 2020, the Indonesian National Arbitration Board or BANI issued Decree No. 20.007/III/SK-BANI/HU, temporarily suspending all arbitration proceedings in BANI in an effort to contain the outbreak. As the government and businesses are starting to assess the 'new normal,' BANI has revoked the March decree and issued Decree Number 20.015/V/SK-BANI/HU on the Rules and Procedures for Electronic Arbitration (“Decree”). Under the Decree, arbitrations can now be held or continued online by using an electronic telecommunication platform, provided the parties observe the arbitration principles applicable in BANI.

What is worth noting in the Decree is that it is applicable beyond the current health crisis, thus allowing an arbitration proceeding to proceed virtually in the event of a disaster, emergency, or any other exceptional circumstances.

The ability to move an arbitration online applies not only to new and ongoing arbitrations, but to situations where parties intend to submit a statement of claim. Given this, the Decree may effectively change the way arbitrations are conducted in Indonesia going forward.

Indonesia | Dispute Resolution | 03 June 2020
PHILIPPINES: Supreme Court Suspends Operations of Courts and Issues Rules on Online Filing of Complaint or Information and Posting of Bail

In line with the implementation of enhanced community quarantine ("ECQ") measures by the National Government, the Philippine Supreme Court ("SC") has ordered the physical closure and suspension of operations of all courts, except for urgent matters.  The SC has also issued rules of procedure for the online filing of complaints or informations in criminal cases, posting of bail, and pilot testing of hearings in criminal cases involving persons deprived of liberty ("PDLs") through videoconferencing. In line with the extension of the ECQ over certain areas (including the National Capital Region), the SC has also extended the effectivity of these measures until May 15, 2020.  Separate guidelines were also issued for courts located in areas placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ).  These are provided in SC Administrative Circulars Nos. 35-2020 and 36-2020, both issued on 27 April 2020.

The SC also issued guidelines on reduced bail and recognizance as modes for releasing indigent PDLs during the period of public health emergency pending the resolution of their cases.  These are provided in SC Administrative Circular No. 38-2020 issued on 30 April  2020. 

Philippines | Dispute Resolution | 07 May 2020
SINGAPORE: COVID-19 Circuit Breaker Measures: Court Proceedings for Essential and Urgent Matters Only

On 3 April 2020, the Singapore Government announced an elevated set of safe distancing measures to be in place from 7 April 2020 until 4 May 2020 ("Relevant Period"). As part of this initiative, on 6 April 2020, the Supreme Court, State Courts and Family Justice Courts announced that they will hear only essential and urgent matters in the Relevant Period. Registrars' Circulars ("Circulars") have been issued by each of the three Courts to identify the matters that may be considered to be essential and urgent. In this Update, we highlight the key elements of the Circulars, including the identified essential and urgent matters and the relevant timelines and processes.

Singapore | Dispute Resolution | 07 April 2020
SINGAPORE: Keeping the Judicial Wheels Turning: Remote Proceedings in Singapore Courts amid COVID-19

The Ministry of Law has issued a press release announcing that it intends to introduce the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill ("Bill") in Parliament next week. The Bill includes proposed provisions allowing for the conduct of court proceedings using remote communication technology so as to avoid individuals having to physically appear in court. Rajah & Tann Singapore is well placed to manage remote court proceedings, having supported the pilot remote hearings before the Singapore courts and being fully equipped with remote communication technology. In this Update, we highlight the key aspects of the Bill as it relates to remote proceedings in court.

Singapore | Dispute Resolution | 03 April 2020


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