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Four sources of law in Singapore
There are generally fours sources of law in Singapore which including: the Constitution, Legislation, Judicial Precedents (which is case law), and Custom.
Constitutional law relates to the study, practice, interpretation and administration of laws set forth by a country’s constitution. The constitution is an important source of law. It is a document that lays down the rights, liberties, and freedoms of all individuals. Under Article 4 of the Constitution, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and any law which is not consistent with it is void. It sets out the most basic laws of the land, spells out how government are to be elected, rights of citizens (and residents of the state) and the powers of the state and representatives (Focus Singapore, (n.d.).
In the Singapore, the Singapore Constitution is the basis for all constitutional law. Any legal subjects that deal with constitutional rights or violations are a part of constitutional law. Moreover, experts in constitutional law may participate in cases that seem to be in clear violation of the constitution. Additionally, constitutional law experts may also participate in lobbying to change or amend existing laws if they seem to conflict with a nation’s views (Ministry of Law, 2009). Generally cases involving Singapore constitutional law are heard by the Singapore Supreme Court. They then write opinions or judgments based on their interpretation of the law.
Legislation is another important source of law in Singapore. Legislation is laws written and passes Parliament. These laws are also known as statutes.
Statutes are laws enacted by the Singapore Parliament seeking to prevent something or to carry out a responsibility. For instance, the misuse of Drug Act seeks to prevent the abuse of drugs by Singapore citizens and all other nationalities in Singapore. The Act spells out the kinds of a punishment in the law courts for those who abuse drugs either through consumption or selling drugs. Other examples of statutes are: Contracts (Also known as Right of Third Parties) Act 2001. An example about the move to make divorced men pay maintenance can describe clearly of legislation is the move to make divorced men in Singapore pay maintenance for his ex-wife. Among some of policies that will be contained in the statute under discussion is the ability of the court to freeze and distribute accordingly the ex-husband’s salary. The statute is still under discussion and also a good example of how law is changed or revised to keep pace with changing situations in Singapore.
Furthermore, the legislature comprises the President and Parliament and is the legislative authority responsible for enacting legislation. Parliament is made up of elected, non-constituency and nominated Members of Parliament. The President’s assent is required for all bills passed by Parliament and he may in his discretion withhold assent to certain bills.
Judicial Precedent is another source of law. This is also known as “Judge made law". The decisions of the court when deciding cases are called precedents and courts are generally bound to follow precedent of higher courts. Precedents are also called case law. An example to describe judicial precedent will be Fay v. Public Prosecutor case in 1994, concerned an American teenager, Michael Fay, who was arrested in 1994 for vandalizing cars and stealing street signs. He pleaded guilty to two charges of vandalizing by spraying paint on a number of cars. On conviction by a subordinate court, he was sentenced to a total of four months’ imprisonment and six strokes of the cane. For the purposes of sentencing, other charges were taken into consideration, including 16 charges of vandalism involving paint. Fay appealed to the High Court against the sentences, arguing that:
Proviso to section 3 of the Vandalism Act required the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt the indelible quality of the paint used before caning could be imposed;
A probation order was appropriate in this case; and
The trial judge below should have ordered a pre-sentencing report with a view to ordering probation.
The appeal was dismissed. The case generated intense media interest in the US, culminating in a formal request being made by the American government for the caning sentence not to be carried out. The request was rejected by the Singapore government on the basis that foreigners in Singapore could not be held to a different standard from citizens. However, a recommendation was made to the President to reduce the caning sentence from six strokes to four.
Moreover, the Judiciary consists of the Supreme Court and the Subordinate Courts, and the head of the Judiciary is the Chief Justice. Judicial power in Singapore is vested in the Supreme Court and in such subordinate courts as may be provided for by any written law for the time being in force.
Mrs. Tan’s case
According to Preston Corporation Sdn Bhd v Edward Leong (Campbell, 2006), an offer was defined as an intimidation of willingness by an offeror to enter into a legally binding contract. In terms either expressly or impliedly must indicate that it is to be binding on the offeror as soon as it has been accepted by the offeree. In short, the party making the offer is the offeror, and the party that receiving the offer will be offeree. An offer must be a definite promise to be bound by specific terms, and also ascertainable (Campbell, 2008).
An example for this essential of contracts can be the case of Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. in 1891. According to the case, Mrs. Carlill saw a newspaper ad stating that the manufacturers of a smoke ball would pay £100 to anybody who bought the smoke ball, used it correctly and still got flu. Mrs. Carlill bought a smoke ball, used it correctly and still got flu so she going to claim the £100. The court held the wording of the advert did amount to an offer and by buying and using the smoke ball Mrs. Carlill had accepted that offer and she still got flu after use, that why the company need to pay £100 for her (Hawkins, 1893).
Acceptance is an agreement comes into existence when the offer is accepted. However, the acceptance is possible if the offer is still in force, such as before it has lapsed, been revoked or rejected. This acceptance must be communicated. Once acceptance is complete, the offer cannot be revoked or rejected, to do so would constitute a breach of contract. Acceptance must be positive and not passive, for example, in Felthouse v Bindley case in 1862, Felthouse offered by letter to buy his nephew’s horse for $30, saying that “If I hear no more about him, I shall consider the horse mind for $30." The nephew did not reply, and the horse was sold. The court held that the uncle had no claim as the horse had not been sold to him, his offer $30 not having been accepted. Therefore, the offeror cannot impose acceptance merely because the offeree does not reject the offer (UWO Faculty of Law, 2003). If in case the uncle offer $30 and his nephew accepted the offer, then he can claim the horse.
Based on the facts of the Mrs. Tan case, it would seem that the owner of the dog already made a valid offer to the world at large when they place a newspaper advertisement offering a reward to find and return the losing dog. Much is the same as the facts of Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. case, showed that Mrs. Tan by finding the lost dog has accepted the reward offer when she found the lost dog and return it to the owner, so that the owner must pay the reward for her. Mrs. Tan is advised to bring legal action against the owner in order to claim her reward.
The fact of this case appears to focus on “Invitation to Treat" in term of offer in essential of contract. An offer must be distinguished from an invitation to treat, which mean an invitation to make an offer. An invitation to treat is not an offer which is capable of being returned into a contract by acceptance. An invitation to treat is a mere invitation by one party to another to make an offer. Several samples that can be describes as invitation to treat are: goods displayed in a catalogue, placing goods in a shop window, or goods displayed on shelved, such as in the John case was placed a sword (which can considering as goods) in his shop. Furthermore, there is a clear distinction between the two however as invitation to treat shows a willingness to enter into negotiations rather than a willingness to enter into a legally binding contract. In this case, it is the customer who must make the offer to buy, which mean John didn’t offer the price for his sword. Another case that can describe clearly the John situation that advertisement is not considered an offer will be Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemicals in 1952 (legalnorms.com, 2008), in which it was held that the goods on the shelves are an invitation to treat and the offer occurs at the checkpoint, at which point the customer offers to buy a certain good for a certain price and then Boots either accepts or rejects the offer. Rather than vice versa whereby it is Boots making an offer by putting the goods on shelve and the customer accepting this offer by moving the goods into the basket.
Based on the facts of the John case, the advised for John is that he can use the Invitation to treat term to defense in the court, which is the customer may offer to buy the sword but John can reject the offer and the sword just consider as a display item in his shop and even don’t have price tag. In short, a display of an offensive weapon (a sword) just for display (Or even for sale) did not constitute an offer for sale but was merely an invitation to treat (Oughton and Davis, 2000).
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