Sources of Law

There are generally regarded to be three sources of law in Singapore: legislation, judicial precedents (case law) and custom.

Legislation, or statutory law, can be divided into statutes and subsidiary legislation. Statutes are written laws enacted by the Singapore Parliament, as well as by other bodies such as the British Parliament, Governor-General of India in Council and Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements which had power to pass laws for Singapore in the past. Statutes enacted by these other bodies may still be in force if they have not been repealed. One particularly important statute is the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, which is the supreme law of Singapore – any law enacted by the Legislature after the commencement of the Constitution which is inconsistent with it is, to the extent of the inconsistency, void. Statutes of the Singapore Parliament, as well as English statutes in force in Singapore by virtue of the Application of English Law Act 1993 are published in loose-leaf form in a series called the Statutes of the Republic of Singapore which is gathered in red binders, and are also accessible on-line from Singapore Statutes Online, a free service provided by the Attorney-General's Chambers of Singapore.

Judicial Precedents
As Singapore is a common law jurisdiction; judgments handed down by the courts are considered a source of law. Judgments may interpret statutes or subsidiary legislation, or develop principles of common law and equity which have been laid down, not by the legislature, but by previous generations of judges. Major portions of Singapore law, particularly contract law, equity and trust law, property law and tort law, are largely judge-made, though certain aspects have now been modified to some extent by statutes. Since 1992, judgments of the High Court, Court of Appeal and Constitutional Tribunal of Singapore have appeared in the Singapore Law Reports (SLR), which is published by the Singapore Academy of Law under an exclusive license from the Supreme Court of Singapore. The Academy has also republished cases decided since Singapore's full independence in 1965 in special volumes of the SLR, and is currently working on a reissue of this body of case law. Cases published in the SLR as well as unreported judgments of the Supreme Court and Subordinate Courts are available on-line from a fee-based service called LawNet, which is also managed by the Academy.

A custom is an established practice or course of behavior that is regarded by the persons engaged in the practice as law. Customs do not have the force of law unless they are recognized in a case. 'Legal' or 'trade' customs are not given recognition as law unless they are certain and not unreasonable or illegal. In Singapore, custom is a minor source of law as not many customs have been given judicial recognition.