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Court of Appeal rules that it is an abuse of process to seek court’s declaration on a question of law determined by the Tribunal

In Republic of India v Vedanta Resources Plc [2021] SGCA 50, the Singapore Court of Appeal rejected granting declaratory relief on points of law regarding confidentiality in investment treaty arbitrations.

During the arbitral proceedings, the Tribunal held that certain documents could not be produced because they were confidential under Singapore law. The disappointed party then applied to the Singapore High Court for a declaration that the documents were not confidential. Accordingly, the opponent raised that such application was an abuse of process. The High Court held that it was not an abuse, but the Court of Appeal held that in fact it was an abuse by stating that:


  • The Tribunal’s decision is final and binding, even if it made an error of law; unless there are grounds for appeal or setting aside under the International Arbitration Act or the Model Law.
  • As the Tribunal is the master of its own procedure, it does not matter that the obligation of confidentiality is a substantive rule of common law.

  • A party cannot ask the court abstract questions of law; they must be tied to the facts. Otherwise, this would result in the court answering the identical question answered by the Tribunal.

  • It is not legitimate to seek for court relief to pressure the Tribunal into reconsidering its decision.

This decision serves as a caution to parties who intend to have their unfavourable Tribunal decisions reviewed by a court through creative applications. It is clear that such application would amount to an abuse of process and the courts would not be willing to interfere with the Tribunal’s decision.

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