Originating Application: What It Is and How to File in Singapore

Last updated on April 19, 2022

originating application documents

What is an Originating Application?

An originating application (previously known as “originating summons”) is one of two ways of commencing a civil action under the Rules of Court in Singapore. (The other way is by an originating claim – previously known as a “writ of summons”).

A civil action generally refers to actions taken to commence civil proceedings. It involves private parties, where the State is not a party to the proceedings. This is as opposed to a criminal action commenced by the Public Prosecutor (who represents the State).

In a civil action, the parties are referred to as the claimant and the defendant. The claimant (previously known as the “plaintiff”) is the party initiating legal proceedings, and the defendant is the party who is subject to the legal proceedings.

When is an originating application filed?

An originating application must be filed where:

  • It is required by statute; or
  • An application is to be made to the court or a judge thereof under any written law.

An example of such a requirement by statute is in the Companies (Winding Up) Rules, which requires that every winding up application be made by an originating application.

On the other hand, an originating application may be filed, and would be appropriate to be filed, where:

  • The sole or main question at issue is the interpretation of a written instrument or statutory provision; or
  • The dispute is concerned with matters of law in respect of which there is unlikely to be any substantial dispute of facts.

However, if it turns out later that there is a substantial dispute of fact, an action initially commenced by an originating application may be converted into an originating claim.

For example, an application for division of matrimonial assets is ordinarily made by an originating application according to the Women’s Charter, but if one party to the divorce discovers subsequently that the other has hidden certain assets, and the latter contests it, there would be a substantial dispute of fact and hence the action would need to be converted into a claim.

The effect of converting an originating application into an originating claim is that different procedures apply.

While the originating application is a simpler and quicker process for resolving disputes, as the dispute will be determined on the affidavits filed along with the application, the process of an originating claim involves pleadings and possibly also other interlocutory proceedings.

Types of originating applications

There are a few types of originating applications that can be filed, depending on the nature of the case, and the relevant statute. The different types include:

  • Originating Application (General)
  • Originating Application (Judicial Management)
  • Taxation
  • Probate and Administration or Legislation
  • Originating Application (To Commence Divorce Within Three Years of Marriage)
  • Originating Application (Family) (Enforcement of Syariah Court Order)
  • Originating Application (Family) (Mental Capacity)
  • Originating Application (Family) (Guardianship of Infant)
  • Originating Application (Family) (Division of Matrimonial Assets During Marriage)

How to Prepare and File an Originating Application

Form of the originating application

According to the Rules of Court, all originating applications must be in Forms 15 or 16, supported by an affidavit.

Form 15 is to be used for inter partes originating applications, whereas Form 16 is to be used for originating applications without notice (previously known as an “ex parte originating summons”).

Inter partes means that one or more parties are being served with the application, therefore there are two “sides” to the proceedings. An originating application without notice means that no other party is being served with the application, and the application is made to the court only.

For example, the issue of division of matrimonial assets (involving the former husband and wife) would be an inter partes action, whereas applying to the court for a Grant of Probate (involving the executor only) would come under an originating application without notice.

Contents of the originating application

According to the Rules of Court, all originating applications must include:

  • A statement of the questions on which the claimant seeks the determination or direction of the court; or
  • A concise statement of the relief or remedy claimed in the proceedings, with sufficient details to identify the causes of action by which the claimant is claiming that relief or remedy.

Additionally, other requirements to note are:

  • If the claimant or defendant is suing/being sued in a representative capacity, the originating application must be accompanied by a statement of the capacity in which he sues/is being sued.
  • Where the claimant sues by a solicitor, the originating application must include the claimant’s address, the solicitor’s name or firm, and the solicitor’s business address.
  • Where the claimant sues in person, the originating application must include the address of the claimant’s place of residence and his occupation.

Procedure for filing of the originating application

If you have legal representation, your lawyers will file the originating application on your behalf via the e-Litigation platform.

If you are unrepresented, you will have to file the originating application yourself at either the LawNet Service Bureau in the Supreme Court building, or the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau at Chinatown Point. You may refer to this webpage for more information on their locations.

The fees for filing an originating application can be found in the Fourth Schedule of the Rules of Court. The exact fees will vary depending on which court the proceeding is commenced in. Generally, where no other fee is specifically provided, it costs:

  • $100 to file in the Magistrate’s Court;
  • $150 to file in the District Court;
  • $500 to file in the Supreme Court where the value of sums claimed is $1 million and below; and
  • $1,000 to file in the Supreme Court where the value of sums claimed is above $1 million.

Duration of the originating application

After the originating application has been filed, the Registrar will assign a serial number to it, and will sign, seal and date the application upon which is deemed to be issued.

The date of issue is important because the originating application is generally only valid for 6 months from that date. Only where an originating application is to be served out of jurisdiction, will it be valid for 12 months from the date of issue.

If the claimant does not or is unable to serve the application within the validity period, he has to apply to the court to extend the validity period. The court may then decide to extend the period by up to 12 months at a time.

Failure to serve the originating application within the validity period will result in the claimant being unable to get a judgment against the defendant.

What Happens After Filing an Originating Application?

The process after filing an originating application would take place in the following manner:

  1. Filing an originating application and Registrar’s issuance of originating application (see above)
  2. Service of originating application personally on the defendant or his lawyer, including service outside Singapore
  3. Within 14 days (if the defendant is served in Singapore) or 28 days (if the defendant is served outside Singapore) of the service of the originating application, if the claimant intends to adduce evidence, he must file it in an affidavit and service a copy on the defendant.
  4. Within 21 days (if the defendant is served in Singapore) or 5 weeks (if the defendant is served outside Singapore) of the service of the originating application, if the defendant intends to adduce evidence, he must file it in an affidavit and service a copy on the claimant.
  5. A defendant may also make a counterclaim but must include it in his affidavit together with all the evidence that is necessary for the counterclaim.

After all of the above, the originating application will be heard in chambers, which refers to a closed hearing attended by only the judge, the parties, and the parties’ lawyers, as opposed to in open court. The court may then:

  • Make an order in favour of the claimant;
  • Make an order to dispose of the matter commenced by originating application;
  • Ask for further evidence to be filed; or
  • Make an order for the hearing or trial of the matter

As the filing of the originating application is the first step in starting a civil action, it is crucial that the requirements mentioned above are strictly adhered to.

If there is an irregularity in the originating application, e.g. if the correct form has not been used, or if the deadlines have not been adhered to, the defendant may dispute the jurisdiction of the court.

What this means is that the defendant is saying that the court has no power to hear the matter, and may apply to set aside the originating application. If the defendant succeeds, the claimant would not be able to proceed with his/her claim.

In order to avoid such irregularities, you should engage a litigation lawyer to prepare the originating application on your behalf. Your lawyer will also be responsible for filing the originating application, serving the application, and following up with any necessary filings thereafter.

Get in touch with experienced litigation lawyers here.

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