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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

According to the Singapore constitution as amended in 1965, Singapore is a republic with a parliamentary system of government. Political authority rests with the prime minister and the cabinet. The prime minister is the leader of the political party or coalition of parties having the majority of seats in parliament. The president, who is chief of state, previously exercised only ceremonial duties. As a result of 1991 constitutional changes, the president is now elected and exercises expanded powers over legislative appointments, government budgetary affairs, and internal security matters.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

Singapore's judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court, consisting of a chief justice and an unspecified number of other judges. All are appointed by the president, acting on the advice of the prime minister. The judiciary functions as the chief guardian of the Constitution through its judicial review of the constitutionality of laws. The Supreme Court of Judicature Act of 1969, and various subsequent acts ensured judicial independence and integrity by providing for the inviolability of judges in the exercise of their duties and for safeguards on their tenure.

The Constitution establishes two levels of courts--the Supreme Court and the subordinate courts. The subordinate courts are the magistrates' courts, trying civil and criminal offenses with maximum penalties of three years' imprisonment or a fine of S$60,000; the district courts, trying cases with maximum penalties of ten years' imprisonment or a fine of S$250,000; the juvenile courts, for offenders below the age of sixteen; the coroners' courts; and the small claims courts, which hear civil and commercial claims for sums of less than S$10,000 (S$20,000 with consent of the parties).

The Supreme Court consists of the High Court, which has unlimited original jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases and which tries all cases involving capital punishment; the Court of Appeal, which hears appeals from any judgment of the High Court in civil matters; and the Court of Criminal Appeal, which hears appeals from decisions of the High Court in criminal cases.

The chief justice and other judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister. The prime minister, however, is required to consult the chief justice on his recommendations for the Supreme Court. Judges of the subordinate courts are appointed by the president on the advice of the chief justice.

Source: Library of Congress

Legal Profession

Law Schools

NUS has the sole law faculty in Singapore, awarding both undergraduate and graduate law degrees.