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Chan Sek Keong

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Chan Sek Keong

The Honourable the Chief Justice
Chan Sek Keong
DUT (2nd Class)
3rd Chief Justice of Singapore
In office
11 April 2006 – 6 November 2012
Appointed by S. R. Nathan
Preceded by Yong Pung How
Succeeded by Sundaresh Menon
Attorney-General of Singapore
In office
1 May 1992 – 10 April 2006
Appointed by Wee Kim Wee
Preceded by Tan Boon Teik
Succeeded by Chao Hick Tin
Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore
In office
1 July 1988 – 1 May 1992
Appointed by Wee Kim Wee
Judicial Commissioner of Singapore
In office
1 July 1986 – 1 July 1988
Appointed by Wee Kim Wee
Personal details
Born (1937-11-05) 5 November 1937
Ipoh, Perak, Federated Malay States
Alma mater National University of Singapore Faculty of Law
Religion Roman Catholic

Chan Sek Keong, DUBC DUT (2nd Class) (simplified Chinese: 陈锡强; traditional Chinese: 陳錫強; pinyin: Chén Xīqiáng; Jyutping: Can4 Sek3 Koeng5; born 5 November 1937)[1] was the third Chief Justice of Singapore, succeeding Chief Justice Yong Pung How on 11 April 2006[2] and holding office until 6 November 2012. Chan had earlier served as the Attorney-General of Singapore from 1992 to 2006.

Early life and education

Chan was born on 5 November 1937 in Ipoh, Perak, in Malaysia, the third of five children. His father was a bank clerk in the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. When the Japanese occupation of Singapore began, they fled to Taiping to stay with his grandfather.

He received his early education in King Edward VII School in Taiping together with his elder brother, and continued at the Anderson School when they moved back to Ipoh after the war ended in 1945. Chan, who was then eight years old, was placed together with other children who had missed entering school at the usual age of six years. At the time, Anderson School was the premier government school in Ipoh. He was happy in school, and mixed well with students from other races. In 1955, Chan scored eight distinctions for his Senior Cambridge School Certificate examinations – one of the best in Malaya that year. He was offered a teaching bursary. However, as becoming a teacher was not what he envisaged, he continued on to the Sixth form in hopes of securing a university.

In his second year of the Sixth Form course, his English literature teacher Dr Etherton told him that a professor of law from the University of Malaya (which opened a division in Singapore two years after he graduated) would be visiting the school to encourage students in the form to take up a new law course offered by the University. Etherton saw Chan's potential for law and urged him to try for it. Chan, unaware about the career prospects a law degree could offer, took Etherton's advice and went for an interview conducted by Professor Lee Sheridan.[3]

Legal education and training

Chan, along with the other students, was a member of the inaugural batch of students admitted to the Law Faculty of the University of Malaya in 1957. He graduated in 1961 and began his career with Messrs Bannon & Bailey in Kuala Lumpur as a pupil of Peter Mooney. Six months later he learned that the law degree he had graduated with was not yet recognised for admission to the Bar as the necessary legislation had not been enacted yet. As soon as the legislation was passed, Chan applied to the Bar Council of Malaysia to ask for the period of pupillage he was required to serve be shortened. Following a rejection of the request, Chan petitioned the court against the Bar Council's decision. R. Ramani, a leading advocate and Chairman of the Bar Council, appeared personally to object to Chan's petition on the ground that he had provided only one reason for abridgment of time when the relevant provision in the legislation referred to "reasons". Justice H.T. Ong ruled in Chan's favour, holding that the provision should be interpreted to include situations where there was only one reason for reducing the length of a pupillage stint.[3]


After being admitted to the Bar on 31 January 1962, he practised as a lawyer for a number of years first with Bannon & Bailey in Kuala Lumpur and then with Braddell Brothers and Shook Lin & Bok in Singapore before being appointed the first Judicial Commissioner of Singapore on 1 July 1986. Two years later, he became a Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore.

In 1992, he was appointed Attorney-General of Singapore. Acting in this capacity in 1997, he submitted an opinion to the Government of Singapore that although the Parliamentary Elections Act forbade unauthorised persons to loiter within 200 metres of polling stations on polling day, this did not apply to unauthorised persons who were inside the stations. Chan was asked to render this opinion following a complaint by the Workers' Party of Singapore that during the 1997 general election former People's Action Party Members of Parliament had loitered in polling stations.[4]

Chan relinquished the position of Attorney-General on 11 April 2006 when he was appointed Chief Justice of Singapore. He retired in 2012, after having spent 26 years in legal service. In October 2013 he joined the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Law as its first Distinguished Fellow. The term of appointment is on an honorary basis and will be for an initial period of three years. As Distinguished Fellow, Mr Chan will pursue research and writing projects.[5]

Awards and decorations

Chan was conferred the Order of Temasek (Second Class) by the Government on 9 August 2008 for his outstanding contributions to the team representing Singapore in the Pedra Branca dispute against the Government of Malaysia before the International Court of Justice.[6] The same month, he became the first Singaporean and local law graduate to become an honorary bencher of Lincoln's Inn.[1]

On 21 November 2009, Chan became the first Asian jurist to be given the International Jurists Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the administration of justice which, according to International Council of Jurists president Adish Aggarwala, had "enhanced the dignity of the judiciary in Asian countries".[7]

Conferred the Darjah Dato' Seri Paduka Mahkota Perak, SPMP, which carries the title 'Dato' Seri', by DYMM Sultan Azlan Shah in 1999.


  1. ^ a b "CJ Chan re-appointed",  
  2. ^ CJ Yong Pung How to retire, Chan Sek Keong to succeed him,  .
  3. ^ a b Kwek Mean Luck (3 August 2006), "In Conversation with Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong" (PDF), Inter Se (reproduced on the website of the Legal Service Commission), archived from the original on 14 July 2007, retrieved 27 November 2009 .
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "NDP awards", The Straits Times, 8 September 2008 .
  7. ^ "CJ Chan Sek Keong receives top jurist award", The Straits Times, 26 November 2009: B20 .

External links

  • Judges, Judicial Commissioners and Registrars on the official website of the Supreme Court of Singapore
Legal offices
Preceded by
Yong Pung How
Chief Justice of Singapore
Succeeded by
Sundaresh Menon
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