Judging the Constitution: The Theory and Practice of Constitutional Interpretation in Singapore

From left to right: Asst. Prof Jaclyn Neo, Attorney-General V.K Rajah, and Prof Andrew Harding, Director of Centre for Asian Legal Studies.

In light of the recent increase in the number of constitutional law cases before the Singapore courts, this conference brought together constitutional scholars to reflect on evolving judicial approaches to constitutional interpretation in Singapore. The conference organised by NUS Law’s Centre for Asian Legal Studies, took place on 28 and 29 May 2015.

Speaking to participants at the conference, the Honourable Attorney-General V.K. Rajah delivered his keynote speech titled "Interpreting the Singapore Constitution”, he said: “What does fidelity to the constitutional text require? In the first place, it requires that, where constitutional provisions are clear, they must be given effect to. And many of our constitutional provisions are clear enough that little is required by way of interpretation.”

The conference is based on a research project helmed by Assistant Professor Jaclyn Neo. In her introductory speech, Asst. Prof. Neo said that cases in Singapore appear to signal a shift in the legal and political culture of the nation. There is now increasing willingness for citizens to challenge the state, and for judges to engage with constitutional ideas and norms in adjudicating between citizens and the state.

The papers presented at the conference sought to theorise recent constitutional developments, bearing in mind the social, political, and normative context of Singapore. This retrospective is particularly timely since 2015 marks fifty years of Singapore’s independence. The conference also aimed to trigger further debate and reflection on the trajectory of constitutional law in Singapore.

For Attorney-General V.K. Rajah’s speech, please click here.
For Assistant Professor Jaclyn Neo’s speech, please click here.
For the full programme, please click here.