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Singapore’s SICC Reaffirms its Stance on Arbitration Policy

In CFJ and another v. CFL and another [2023] SGHC(I) 1 the Singapore International Commercial Court reaffirmed its hitherto pursued approach of interfering as little as possible with the autonomy of arbitral proceedings and thus decided in the sense of the principle of minimal intervention by courts.

The court had to decide whether the president of the arbitration tribunal should be removed and the previous decisions of the court should be withdrawn because of a potential bias of the president. The court made it clear, that in order to do so the filing party had to present specific circumstances that would give rise to reasonable suspicion or apprehension of bias. The test is whether there exist facts and circumstances that give rise to a reasonable suspicion or apprehension of bias in the fair-minded and informed observer as set out in BOI v. BOJ [2018] 2 SLR 1156. 

The court found that the circumstances presented by the seller were too “tenuous” to raise a reasonable suspicion of lack of independence. The court also stated that this conclusion shall not be altered by the fact, that the circumstances that potentially raised the doubts had not been disclosed to the parties. This question shall also be answered from an objective view.

In this matter, the court also continued with the jurisprudence of distinguishing different situations concerning breaches of natural justice, specifically the right of the parties to be heard effectively on every issue that may be relevant to the resolution of a dispute. The benchmark to this question is whether a reasonable litigant could have foreseen the possibility that the award would employ the reasoning it did.

Key takeaways
The test for apparent bias and disclosure are both objective ones, based on the perception of a fair-minded and informed observer. Also, parties should include the main issues of the arbitration case in their earliest submissions to avoid not being heard with their concerns.

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