PROVISION FOR SUMMARY DETERMINATION AND DISPOSAL OF VEXATIOUS CLAIMS UNDER SUPREME COURT (PROTECTION FROM HARASSMENT) RULES 2021

Murali Pillai
3 min readJan 4, 2023

The Protection from Harassment Court (“PHC”) was operationalised in 2021. As a result, victims of harassment, stalking, cyberbullying, and other acts causing alarm or distress now have a much better ability to get recourse against harassment. From time to time, unfortunately, there have been cases of claimants who invoke the PHC system for plainly frivolous and vexatious cases to intentionally inconvenience the respondents. I explored whether PHC may summarily deal with such cases instead of requiring the claims to be served on the respondents and then make an application only upon an application by the respondents. The Minister, in his reply, highlighted that the PHC would generally still need to hear the respondents’ side of the story before deciding whether the claim is indeed frivolous or vexatious. He also highlighted that the claimant can be penalised in form of costs. The claimant may also be restrained on application by the Attorney-General if it can be showed that he has repeatedly commenced unmeritorious actions. In my respectful view, vesting the PHC with summary powers to deal with obviously unmeritorious claims without notifying the respondents may offer a useful protection against claimants whose aim is just to inconvenience respondents. My PQ and the Minister’s response may be accessed below.

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Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for Law whether the Supreme Court (Protection from Harassment) Rules 2021 may be amended to provide for summary determination and disposal of frivolous and vexatious claims by claimants without the need to notify the respondents to reduce the risk of the Protection from Harassment Court being used by claimants against respondents for collateral purposes.

Mr K Shanmugam: Claims filed under the Protection from Harassment Act can be made through simplified or standard proceedings. For claims filed through simplified proceedings, which form a significant majority of cases filed in the Protection from Harassment Court (PHC), the PHC has, at any time after a claim is filed, powers to make such orders and directions as it thinks fit for the just, expeditious and economic disposal of a case. The PHC therefore may, notwithstanding that the proceedings are already simplified, deal with a case which is frivolous, vexatious or otherwise an abuse of process in an appropriate way.

For claims filed through standard proceedings, which form a small minority of cases filed in the PHC, the normal procedures provided for in the Rules of Court, such as striking out, are available.

Further, in making a decision to award costs and disbursements, the PHC may take into account whether the claim was dismissed for being frivolous, vexatious or otherwise an abuse of process.

As with civil disputes in general, the PHC will usually require the Respondent’s side of the story to determine whether the claim is indeed frivolous or vexatious.

The General Division of the High Court (GDHC) is also empowered to, on application by the Attorney-General or any party to a claim, make restraint orders against a claimant who has repeatedly commenced actions that are totally without merit, to restrain such a claimant from commencing actions or applications. This provides another avenue for preventing frivolous or vexatious claims.

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Murali Pillai

Member of Parliament, Bukit Batok SMC, Advisor to Bukit Batok SMC GROs.