Bringing or Defending a Civil Case
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VII. How to fix a trial date and what may happen at a trial

For proceedings in the Court of First Instance of the High Court

When a case is ready for trial, the plaintiff should issue an inter-parte summons directing both parties to attend a court hearing before the Listing Master. The purpose of this hearing is for the plaintiff to apply for leave (permission) to set the case down for trial (to fix the trial date). If the Listing Master is satisfied that the parties are ready for trial, he will grant permission for fixing a trial date, and give directions regarding the manner for trial including the list on which the trial date will be fixed: the Fixture List or the Running List .

At this hearing, the Listing Master will normally also order the parties to fix a date for them to attend a pre-trial review. A pre-trial review is usually held six weeks in advance of a trial to ensure that the case is ready to proceed to trial on the allocated date.

The plaintiff should then file with the court an application to set a case down for trial and a notification of setting down. When filing the application to set the case down for trial, a prescribed fee has to be paid. In addition, a bundle of documents have to be lodged (see Order 34 rule 3 of the Rules of the High Court for the requirements of making this bundle). You can also find a sample of the "Notice (application to set a case down for trial)" and the "Notice (to set down)" form on the Judiciary webpage (for cases in the High Court only).

For cases in the Fixture List , both parties should attend before the Listing Officer on the date scheduled for fixing the trial date. The Listing Officer will then list the case for trial (fix a trial date for the case).

For cases in the Running List , no fixed date will be offered for the trial. Once the title of the action has been fixed, its action number will appear at the bottom of the Pending List (a list of cases pending trial by the court) if it is expected that it will be tried during the next succeeding month. Parties must therefore check the Pending List regularly to see if their case has been listed yet.

Cases will be tried by judges who are found available to try them, generally in accordance with the order set out on the Pending List. Every Wednesday, a number of cases listed on the Pending List will be warned that they are likely to be called and tried during the next week. These cases are put on a separate list called the Warned List (please go to the Judiciary webpage if you want to see this list).

If the case has been put on the Warned List, the parties concerned are required to check this List every day to see if their case has been fixed to be tried on the next day. The Warned List is posted on the Notice Board outside the Clerk of Court's office and the Pending List is posted on the Notice Board in the Reception area of the Clerk of Court's Office on the Ground Floor. At 2:30 pm in every afternoon, the Listing Clerk will mark on the Warned List those cases that will be tried the next day, specifying the place and the time where and when the case will be tried. It is the responsibility of the parties concerned to ensure that they attend the trial on time.

For proceedings in the District Court

The plaintiff has to apply for a pre-trial review within the prescribed period or the period fixed by the previous court direction. If the plaintiff fails to do this, the defendant may apply for a pre-trial review, or the defendant may apply to the court to dismiss the plaintiff's action for want of prosecution.

A pre-trial review will be conducted without an oral hearing unless an oral hearing is ordered by the court on its own motion, or requested by written notice by any of the parties to the civil case.

At the pre-trial review, if the court is not satisfied that the action is ready for trial, it may give directions and orders to the parties so that the parties will make all necessary preparations for trial.

If the court is satisfied that the case is ready for trial, it may permit the action to be set down (to fix the trial date). Once the court has fixed the date for trial, the plaintiff will be notified in writing.

The trial hearing

  1. How can the parties prepare the bundle of documents before going to the trial (copies of the documents that will be placed before the judge and the relevant parties at the trial)?
  2. If I am a party to the case and have called witnesses to give evidence for me, should I meet with my witnesses before attending the trial?
  3. What may happen during a civil trial? What is the usual procedure that the plaintiff and the defendant need to follow at the trial?
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