In Singapore, Commissioners for Oaths are appointed by the Board of Commissioners of Oaths and Notaries Public. The board is appointed by the Senate of the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL).
In general, Commissioners for Oaths are tasked with administering oaths and affirmations for legal documents, statutory declarations used in Singapore, and affidavits used in Singapore Courts.
When will you need a Commissioner for Oaths?
Generally, you will need a Commissioner for Oaths when you sign an affidavit or a statutory declaration. You will also need a Commissioner for Oaths if you apply to be appointed executor or administrator of a deceased’s estate.
Who is eligible to be a Commissioner for Oaths?
Individuals must be considered fit and proper persons to be appointed as Commissioners for Oaths.
Under Sec 68 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1969, the Registrar, the Deputy-Registrar, and the Assistant Registrars of the Supreme Court are all ex-officio Commissioners for Oaths.
Rule 3 of the Commissioners for Oaths Rules states that the following persons are eligible to be appointed:
- An advocate or solicitor who has been in active practice for no less than seven years or has been a judicial service officer or a legal service officer.
In practice, the board’s guidelines for new appointments require lawyers to have at least ten years of experience in active practice and be at least 35 years old. If there have been disciplinary proceedings against the advocate or solicitor which resulted in the imposition of penalties, the application will be rejected. If the applicant were only reprimanded (without a penalty imposed), the board would examine the case’s merits before making a decision should the applicant make a fresh application.
- Officers in the employment of government ministries, departments, statutory boards, and government-linked companies.
- Court interpreters and court officers
- Employees of non-profit organisations so designated by the Senate.
The board requires that all applicants who are not advocates or solicitors must be at least 25 years old, have at least GCE “O” Levels or its equivalent and be employed by the organisation for at least one year.)
What does a Commissioner for Oaths do?
To understand what Commissioners for Oaths, do, we need to understand the difference between an oath and an affirmation, and an affidavit and a declaration.
The difference between oath and affirmation
- By taking an oath,the oath maker swears that the statement is the truth. It often has a religious element – “So help me God”. The oath maker “calls” God as a witness to the truth.
- An affirmation does not have a reference to God but still is a solemn and formal declaration that the statement is the truth. It has the same legal status and force. People who object to taking an oath or whose religion relies on a different divinity will make an affirmation.
The difference between an affidavit and a statutory declaration
An affidavit is a sworn or affirmed written statement of facts, often to be used as evidence in court proceedings.
A statutory declaration is a statement made to declare something as the truth to satisfy some statutory requirement. The format is usually prescribed. Statutory declarations are not necessarily used in court proceedings.
What is the role of the Commissioner of Oaths?
A Commissioner for Oaths will take an oath or an affirmation from the person making the affidavit or statutory declaration to ensure the truthfulness and authenticity of the affidavit and declaration.
This must be done in the presence of the Commissioner for Oaths, who will record and administer the oath or affirmation. As part of the process, the commissioner will confirm that the person has read and understands the statement’s content.
The commissioner will also verify the identity of the person taking the oath or affirmation as the person making the statement and witness the deponent’s signature.
Sec 68 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act sets out what Commissioners of Oath may do.
It includes the following:
- Receive acknowledgements of married women in all cases where such acknowledgements are required by law to be taken before a public officer.
- Receive acknowledgements of recognisances of bail and bail bonds.
- Administer oaths for:
- the justification for bail;
- taking any affidavit or affirmation;
- receiving and taking the answer, plea, demurrer, disclaimer, allegation or examination of any party or parties to any action;
- the examination of any witnesses upon any interrogatories or de bene esse(provisional) or in chief or on any other occasions;
- swearing executors and administrators; and
- swearing persons in any cause or matter which is pending or about to be instituted in any court in any of its jurisdiction.
- Take and receive statutory declarations.
Different Commissioners for Oaths may perform varying functions
Lawyers who are Commissioners for Oaths may only:
- Administer oaths for taking any affidavits or affirmations or for the swearing of executors and administrators.
- Take and receive statutory declarations.
It should be noted that an advocate or solicitor may not act as a Commissioner for Oaths in any matter or business in which the advocate or solicitor or any member of his firm is acting as advocate and solicitor.
Court interpreters who are Commissioners for Oaths may perform the functions set out in sec 68 subject to any limitations that the Senate may include in their certificate of appointment.
Commissioners for Oaths who are government or designated non-profit employees generally should only handle documents relevant to their departments and take and receive documents specified in Schedule 1 of their applications. They can exercise their power in accordance with the restrictions on their certificates of appointment.
It is important to remember that Commissioners for Oaths are only involved with documents to be used in Singapore. Any documents to be used outside of Singapore require a Notary Public’s services instead.
How long is a Commissioner for Oaths appointed for?
A Commissioner for Oaths is appointed for one year. The Senate has the discretion to re-appoint a person each subsequent year.
Besides the other requirements, the Senate shall consider the number of commissioners already practising in a specific area and the convenience of the people living there.
Commissioner for Oaths services fees
The Senate of the SAL sets Commissioner for Oath fees. The fees can be found in Part II of the Schedule to the Commissioner of Oaths Rules.
Currently, the fees to be charged by a Commissioner for Oaths are as follows:
- On taking an affidavit or affirmation before an advocate and solicitor who is appointed as a commissioner for oaths: $25
- For each exhibit referred to in an affidavit sworn or affirmed before an advocate and solicitor who is appointed as a commissioner for oaths: $5
- On taking or receiving a statutory declaration: $25
- For each exhibit referred to therein, which is required to be marked: $5
The Commissioner for Oaths is allowed to charge reasonable additional fees for translating, interpreting, or reading the content to the person having the statement commissioned or for travel time if the oath is administered outside the commissioner’s office.
Can an appointment as a Commissioner for Oaths be revoked?
Yes, Rule 13 of the Commissioners for Oaths Rules provides that any appointment shall be deemed to be revoked if the Commissioner for Oaths is:
- declared a bankrupt;
- convicted of an offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment (unless the imprisonment is imposed in default to payment of a fine);
- an advocate and solicitor, and is suspended or struck off the roll of the Supreme Court of Singapore;
- a government officer or court interpreter, and is dismissed from service, reduced in rank, or their employment terminated; or
- an employee of a designated non-profit organisation and their employment is terminated, or the Senate of the SAL revokes the designation of the non-profit organisation.
How do you find a Commissioner for Oaths in Singapore?
The Singapore Academy of Law keeps a directory of all Commissioners for Oaths. When deciding on a Commissioner for Oaths, you should pick one conveniently located and proficient in a language you are comfortable with.
The courts also provide Commissioner for Oaths services for affidavits or statutory declarations to be used in court proceedings. For all other documents, you should find your own Commissioner for Oaths.
Contact PKWA today for Commissioner for Oaths services.