Chan Sek Keong


Chan Sek Keong
1 chan sek keong 2012.jpg
Chan giving a speech in 2012
3rd Chief Justice of Singapore
In office
11 April 2006 – 6 November 2012
Appointed byS. R. Nathan
Preceded byYong Pung How
Succeeded bySundaresh Menon
Attorney-General of Singapore
In office
1 May 1992 – 10 April 2006
Appointed byWee Kim Wee (1992)
Ong Teng Cheong (1994, 1997)
S. R. Nathan (2002, 2005)
Preceded byTan Boon Teik
Succeeded byChao Hick Tin
Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore
In office
1 July 1988 – 30 April 1992
Appointed byWee Kim Wee
Judicial Commissioner of Singapore
In office
1 July 1986 – 30 June 1988
Appointed byWee Kim Wee
Personal details
Born (1937-11-05) 5 November 1937 (age 83)
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
(then Federated Malay States)
Alma materNational University of Singapore
ReligionChristianity (Roman Catholic)
Chan Sek Keong
Simplified Chinese陈锡强

Chan Sek Keong SPMP, DUT (Second Class), DUBC, SC (born 5 November 1937)[1] is a Singaporean former judge. He is appointed by former President of Singapore, S R Nathan as the country's third Chief Justice of Singapore [2] until his retirement on 6 November 2012. He had previously served as Attorney-General from 1992 to 2006.

Early life and education

Chan was born in 1937 in Ipoh, Malaya as the third of five children in an ethnic Chinese family of Cantonese descent. His father was a clerk in the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. During World War II, Chan and his family fled from Ipoh to Taiping to live with his grandfather.

Along with his elder brother, Chan received his early education in King Edward VII School in Taiping. When the war ended in 1945, he returned to Ipoh and continued studying at Anderson School. Chan, who was then eight years old, was placed 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. In school, he interacted well with students of other ethnicities. 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 a teaching career was not what he envisaged, he continued on to the sixth form in hopes of securing a place in a university.

During his second year of the sixth form course, Chan heard from his English literature teacher, Dr. Alan Etherton, that a law professor from the University of Malaya 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 go for it. Chan, unaware about the career prospects that a law degree could offer, heeded Etherton's advice and went for an interview conducted by Professor Lee Sheridan.[3]

Legal education and training

Chan, along with the 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 learnt 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 to be shortened. Following a rejection of his 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 grounds that he had provided only one reason for abridgment of time when the relevant provision in the legislation referred to "reasons" (or "special grounds", the accurate wording used). 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, Chan 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, Chan was appointed Attorney-General. Acting in this capacity in 1997, he submitted an opinion to the Singapore government 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 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. He retired in 2012, 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 a Distinguished Fellow, Chan pursued research and writing projects.[5]

In October 2019, Chan called for a review of the constitutional validity of Section 377A.[6]

Awards and decorations

Chan was conferred the Order of Temasek (Second Class) by the Singapore government on 9 August 2008 for his outstanding contributions to the team representing Singapore in the Pedra Branca dispute against the Malaysian government before the International Court of Justice.[7] In the same month, he became the first Singaporean law graduate to be made 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".[8]

Chan was conferred the state award, Darjah Dato' Seri Paduka Mahkota Perak (SPMP), which carries the title Dato' Seri, by Azlan Shah, the Sultan of Perak, in 1999.


  1. ^ a b "CJ Chan re-appointed", The Straits Times, p. B4, 11 April 2009, President S R Nathan yesterday re-appointed Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong as head of the judicial system here for a second term. ... CJ Chan will hold the post of Singapore's Chief Justice for about 3½ years, until Nov 5, 2012, his 75th birthday.
  2. ^ CJ Yong Pung How to retire, Chan Sek Keong to succeed him, Channel NewsAsia, 31 March 2006, archived from the original on 28 May 2008, retrieved 31 May 2006; Lawyers welcome Chan Sek Keong's appointment as new CJ, Channel NewsAsia, 1 April 2006, archived from the original on 15 May 2008, retrieved 1 April 2006.
  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 (PDF) on 14 July 2007, retrieved 27 November 2009.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 April 2016. Retrieved 2014-01-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Headlines". Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  6. ^ "Former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong calls for review of Section 377A, says law is outdated". CNA. 16 October 2019.
  7. ^ "NDP awards", The Straits Times, 8 September 2008.
  8. ^ "CJ Chan Sek Keong receives top jurist award", The Straits Times, p. B20, 26 November 2009.

External links

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