The Oaths, Declarations and Notarisations (Remote Methods) Bill was passed in Parliament on 2 August 2023. This Bill amends a number of statutes (including the Oaths and Declarations Act 2000 and the Notaries Public Act 1959) and will provide for conditions under which oaths, declarations and notarisations can be taken or made through live video links.
This legislative change has the effect of providing a greater measure of consistency between the taking of affidavits remotely by commissioners for oaths (which has been permitted since the Covid-19 pandemic) and conducting notarisations remotely by notaries public (which has up to now been specifically excluded). This disparity of treatment existed even though the evidential weight of these acts and the role of the Commissioner or Notary in both is not dissimilar.
The amended legislation will contain certain safeguards around conditions of the use of live video technology, such that persons administering oaths or performing notarial acts will be required to act in a prudential manner and in as close as possible a way to how they would have conducted a physical meeting (e.g. the oath taker must be present on screen at all times).
One limitation with the amended legislation is that it will remain territorially limited, with both the oath taker and the person administering the oath being required to be physically in Singapore. While this requirement seems odd as the physical location of parties is not a limiting factor insofar as live video technology is concerned, there may be broader jurisdictional issues which would be raised if the scope of the legislation was not limited to the parties being in Singapore.
However, given the experience with and widespread use of live video links during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is likely that there is sufficient familiarity with the technology such that the demand for physical meetings for oath taking will be decreased. It is overall a development in the right direction and reinforces the Singapore government’s focus on leveraging technology in the legal industry.