Singapore Legal System

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Table of Contents in the Asian Legal Encyclopedia

Singapore Legal System in Asia

Singapore (official name: Republic of Singapore) is situated in the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula (Southeast Asia). It is a country city-based (city-state). The legal system of Singapore is mixed (Common law + Muslim law), specially based in the English common law.

Legal Research in Singapore: a Guide for Lawyers

In a globalized world, lawyers outside Singapore may come into contact with Singapore law, Singapore lawyers or Singapore clients, and the last would be better served when their lawyers have an understanding of the essential characteristics and aspects of the Singapore legal system. Likewise, in researching Singapore law, it is important for non-Singapore lawyers not to limit their inquiry to their country sources. In addition, instead of looking for precedents, in Singapore lawyers browse first the provisions of the corresponding legislation for an appropriate legal principle applied to the case or Singapore law problem.

Any serious legal issue involving Singapore must require consultation with a lawyer trained and licensed in Singapore. International materials and resources, like this Encyclopedia, however, may provide some familiarity with the basic concepts of the Singapore law, a solid starting point and new perspectives and solutions that are not apparent, sometimes, from within a non-Singapore legal tradition. Their study may help the non-Singapore lawyer to determine the general nature of a problem, and can facilitate a better understanding with the Singapore colleague who may be called in to assist.

Where to Start

General Information about Singapore and their Legal Tradition

Singapore and their People

Read about Singapore and their People here.

Historical Background of Singapore

Overview of the history of Singapore.

Legal Education

Offering a summary of the legal education, including law schools , in Singapore.

Development of Singapore Law

Report on the development of the law in Singapore.

Structures of Singapore Law

It offers a description of the structures of the law in Singapore.

Sources of the Singapore Law

Summary of the sources of Law in Singapore.

Historical Background

More about the history of the Singapore law here.

Enacted Law in Singapore

Read more about the legislation in Singapore.

  • The Singapore Constitution

Learn more about the Constitution of Singapore.

  • Singapore Codes and Statutes

Survey of Singapore Codes and Statutes.

  • Singapore Statutory Decrees

Outline of the Singapore Statutory Decrees.

  • Singapore Regulations

Scope of the Regulations enacted in Singapore.

  • Singapore By-Laws

Observation about the By-Laws in existence in Singapore.

Customary Law

Learn more about the customary law of Singapore.

Case Law as a Source of Law

Analysis of the Case Law in Singapore.

Precedents in Singapore

Evaluation of the role of Precedents in the Singapore legal system.

Doctrine in Singapore

Review of the legal Doctrine in Singapore.

International sources of law

See more about the international sources of law in Singapore and Asia, including International Treaties.

The Singapore Government System

Study of the Government system in existence in Singapore.

Singapore Constitutional Structure

Overview of the Constitutional Structure in Singapore.

Historical Background

Read more about the history of the Government System of the country.

General Characteristics of the Constitution

Constitution of Singapore: the main features.

Human Rights in Singapore

Scope of the Civil and Human rights in the country.

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch proposes laws. Find a description of the Legislative Power in Singapore here.

Structure of the Singapore Legislative Branch

Observation of the structure of the legislative power in Singapore.

Functions and Powers

See more about the role of the legislative power in Singapore here.

Legislative Process

Read how the Singapore legislative procedures work here.

Supervision of the Executive

Learn how the legislative branch supervises the executive branch.

Executive Branch

The executive power proposes laws. Read more.

Head of State in Singapore

The head of state of Singapore is the formal head of the executive, legislature and judiciary of Singapore.

Head of Government in Singapore

The head of government in Singapore is the Prime Minister of Singapore, the political leader of the government of Singapore.

Singapore Council of Ministers

See information about the Cabinet Ministers of Singapore here.

Singapore Local Governments

Review of the local government powers in Singapore. See the definition of local rule here.

Local Organizations of Central Administration

The central administration consists of a number of ministries and other organizations, including local ones. Various departments, offices and divisions are established in each ministry in Singapore. See the definition of centralization here.

Singapore Municipalities

Outlook of the cities, towns, villages and other communities, including municipal courts (when applicable), and their legal authority in Singapore.

Judiciary Branch

The judiciary power interprets and applies laws. Find here a review of the Judicial System in Singapore.

Main Features of the Judiciary

Read the most important characteristics of the Judiciary system in Singapore here.

Singapore Judicial Structure

Report of the Court Organization and Jurisdiction in Singapore.
The Courts in Singapore may be divided into:

  • High Courts

Description of the functioning of high courts in Singapore.

  • Lower Courts

Summary of the roles of courts of lesser rank.


Information about rules that influence sentencing in Singapore.

Participants in the Administration of Justice

Survey about the players in the Administration of Justice in Singapore and other countries.


Information about the impartial administration of justice, the independence and status of the judiciary and other issues related to Judges in Singapore.

Public Prosecutors

The role of those government officials who represent, in Singapore, legal authorities (often prosecuting criminal actions in Singapore and Asia).

The practice of law

More about the practice of law in Singapore and Asia.

The legal professions

Outline of the legal professions in Singapore and Asia.

Practitioners (Lawyers and others)

Learn about the legal role of practitioners, specially lawyers.

Notary-Public in Singapore

Overview about Public Notaries practising in Singapore.

Court reporter – Clerks

Overview of Court reporters and Clerks in Singapore and Asian courthouses.

Civil Law Procedure

Outlook of the main features of the Singapore civil process, including:

Pretrial Proceedings in Singapore

Information about what pretrial proceedings consist of.

The Trial in Singapore

Review of the judicial examinations in civil or criminal actions in Singapore.

Civil Litigation

Overview of the steps of litigation in Singapore, the litigator’s role and the types of civil litigation in the country here.


Evidence law outline in Singapore.

The Judgment

Outlook of the tribunal decisions in Singapore. For Judgments which are of significance as legal precedents on points of law in Singapore, see precedents.

The Effect of the Judgment

Overview of effects and recognition of a valid judgment delivered by a court of competent jurisdiction in Singapore.

Legal Remedies in Singapore

Enforcement of a legal right ordered by the court. See also the Judicial Relief definition.

Appeals – Judicial Review

Description of the Appeals process and the Judicial Review process of challenging the lawfulness of decisions in Singapore.

Criminal Law Procedure

Observation of the Criminal Process.

The Investigation of Crime

Scope of the investigation of crimes:

The Prosecution of Crime

Crime Prosecution.

Criminal Trials in Singapore

Laws and rules of the administration of justice when a person has been accused of a crime.

Appeals – Judicial Review

When a party files an appeal, asking to review the case:

Alternative Dispute Resolution in Singapore

Method of resolving disputes out-of-court (ADR).

Private Law

Family Law in Singapore

Guide to Marriage Law, Succession Law and other Family Law topics in Singapore.

Contract Law in Singapore

Contracts Law outline in Singapore.

Tort Law in Singapore

Regulating claims by civil wrongs that result in an injury or harm.

Property Law in Singapore

Real property and Personal property law in Singapore.

Copyright and Industrial Property

Survey of industrial and intellectual property laws in Singapore.

Foreign Trade

Regulation of Foreign Trade in Singapore and Asia.

Business Law in Singapore

Besides commercial law and the law of corporations and other entities, this guide provides comprehensive information about:

Criminal Law in Singapore

Penal law involves prosecution for a crime in Singapore and Asia. Find out more.

Family Law in Singapore

Family legal issues including:

  • Divorce and separation
  • Child protection, custody, support and access
  • Adoptions
  • Property Division

Public Law

More about Public Law here.

Administrative Law

Report of the branches of the Administrative law, including Environmental law.

Administrative Processes

Administrative Processing in Singapore and Asia.


Taxation in Singapore explained.

Labor Law

Overview of the labor law and social security in Singapore.

Asia Legal Systems

Further Resources

History of the Singapore Legal System

The Singapore legal tradition has been shaped by many different influences, domestic as well as foreign. More than one different legal system has coexisted in Singapore at various points in the long country history. The Portal of Singapore law provides introductory entries about the background and history of the law of the country.

Singapore Law Portal

The Singapore Law Portal provides an introductory overview of the history of legal development in Singapore, major legal concepts, the structure of Singapore government, the Singapore judicial and court system, and peculiar characteristic of the response of the Singapore legal system to development in Singapore.

The Singapore Portal presents the main areas of its legal system and the wider aspects of how law is made and reformed. The entries of the Singapore Law Portal include consideration of the primary features of the Singapore legal system, including the Singapore legal history, Singapore judicial structure and operation, the Singapore Constitution and the legislative and administrative structure and process. The contents of the Singapore Portal also include discussion of Singapore legal actors (including Singapore lawyers), legal education, judges and other participants in the Singapore legal landscape.

The Portal introduces legal professionals, students and the general reader to terms and concepts necessary for understanding the Singapore legal system, the jurisdiction, organization and authority of courts in Singapore, and the Singapore judicial interpretation and decision-making. The substantive areas of law such as public law, torts and product liability, property (including intellectual property rights and copyright infringements), and family law are also covered. The Portal also treats the law governing the main business legal topics: contracts, business regulation, companies and taxation. It also examines the civil, criminal and administrative processes, the procedural rights, main court opinions and the various modes of alternative dispute resolution available in Singapore.

Useful to the reader of the Encyclopedia as a reference, the Portal provides a table of cases, indices provides even greater detail, a glossary of selected legal terms and many entries provide bibliographies for further reading.

Comparative Law and Legal Systems in Asia

One of the goals of the comparative law is to wrap up the similarities and differences among countries, including Singapore. the different legal traditions in Asia and could be able thereby better to understand the Singapore law. to the reception of legal systems in Singapore and other countries of Asia, with special reference to the reception of foreign law (specially English law and Islamic law) by these countries.

The Asian Encyclopedia of Law provides a survey of the legal systems of almost all the Asian jurisdictions. Being the Encyclopedia a work in progress, the length of the entries may vary considerably. Each country section includes a description of their major subject areas of law, notes on the main compilations (or official codifications), a detailed listing of legislation covering specific topics and resources for enacted laws and judicial decisions (including references to further online sources).

Conclusion about the Legal System of Singapore

A good comprehension of the Singapore legal system requires knowledge and skill in a number of disciplines. The Singapore system itself is the result of developments in law, economy, politics, sociological change and the theories which feed all these bodies of knowledge. The law or Singapore may be relevant in a foreign jurisdiction court proceeding involving international transactions. The Knowledge of the Singapore traditions and its legal institutions allows a good understanding of the Singapore law, its institutions and processes and sets the Singapore law and system in a social context.

This guide introduces some of the main procedural and substantive Singapore principles, with a more detailed treatment of resources in the major subject areas of the Singapore law, with access to primary materials.

The general reader and students may learn some basic legal concepts and principles of the Singapore law, to explain how the Singapore legal system operates, and to provide a sense of how the systems within Singapore have evolved historically in Singapore from its origins.

A globally focused guide like this site, including the legal concepts and principles of Asia, cannot
avoid taking many culture-specific elements into account.

About the Author

Salvador Trinxet Llorca is a law writer, professor and lawyer specialized in comparative and international law.

See Also

References and Further Reading

  • Comparative law in a global context: the legal systems of Asia and Africa, Werner Menski
  • Asian legal systems: law, society, and pluralism in East Asia, Poh-Ling Tan
  • Philanthropy and law in Asia: a comparative study of the nonprofit legal systems in ten Asia Pacific societies, Thomas Silk
  • Law and legal institutions of Asia: traditions, adaptations and innovations, E Ann Black; Gary F Bell
  • Law, capitalism and power in Asia: the rule of law and legal institutions, Kanishka Jayasuriya
  • Asia-Pacific legal development, Douglas M Johnston and Gerry A Ferguson
  • Modern legal systems cyclopedia, Kenneth R Redden and William Emerson Brock
  • Constitutionalism in Asia: Asian views of the American influence, Lawrence Ward Beer
  • The judicialization of politics in Asia, Björn Dressel
  • East Asian Law: Universal Norms and Local Cultures
  • Law, Capitalism and Power in Asia: The Rule of Law and Legal Institutions
  • Doing Business in Asia (updated regularly)
  • Copyright Law and the Information Society in Asia
  • Insolvency Law in East Asia
  • Intellectual Property Law in Asia
  • A Legal Guide to Doing Business in the Asia-Pacific


  • Asia-Pacific Development Journal
  • Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law
  • Asian Law Journal
  • Australian Journal of Asian Law
  • Columbia Journal of Asian Law


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