The Judicial system in Singapore is based on the English common law. The Supreme Court of Singapore is the highest court in the island-state and is vested with complete judicial power. It consists of the Court of Appeals, which exercises appellate criminal and civil jurisdiction and the High Court hears both civil and criminal cases. The High Court also hears admiralty matters; company winding-up proceedings, bankruptcy proceedings and petitions for the admission of advocates and solicitors.
The High Court also has the jurisdiction to try offenses committed outside Singapore in certain circumstances. The Chief Justice is the head of the judiciary. Presently the Honorable Chief Justice of Singapore is Chan Sek Keong. Singapore's First Charter of Justice was signed in 1819 between Sir Stamford Raffles and Sultan Hussein of Johor and Temenggong Abdu'r Rahman. The Second Charter of Justice was passed in 1826, establishing the Court of Judicature of Prince of Wales' Island consisting Singapore and Malaya. Under the Third Charter of 1855, the Court of Judicature was reorganized into two divisions, namely over Singapore and Malacca and the Prince of Wales' Island.
In 1868, through a Supreme Court Ordinance, the Court of Judicature of Prince of Wales' Island, Singapore and Malacca was abolished and replaced with the Supreme Court of the Straits Settlements, which was disbanded after the Japanese surrender in 1946 and the end of British rule over Singapore. Followed a merger with Malaysia in 1963, the High Court of Malaysia in Singapore replaced the Supreme Court of the Colony of Singapore. However, this merger was short-lived and Singapore became independent in 1965 and the Supreme Court of Singapore, comprising the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Court of Criminal Appeal was reestablished through the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1969.
The old Supreme Court building was built between 1937 and 1939. The foundation stone, laid by Sir Shenton Thomas on 1 April 1937 was, at that time, the biggest foundation stone in the whole of Malaya. The Court building features two domes: the main copper-colored dome, which dominates Singapore's skyline, and a smaller dome, which originally used to house a beautifully designed library.
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