Write-Up On The Ida v Singtel Case

On 30 May 2002, the High Court of Singapore rendered an important judgment relating to the law of restitution and the legal concept of a mistake of law. Following the Court of Appeal case of Management Corporation Strata Title No 473 v De Beers Jewellery Pte Ltd [2002] 2 SLR 1 which introduced the concept of mistake of law into the Singapore legal framework, the Info-communications Development Authority of Singapore ("IDA") claimed that it had made a mistake of law in grossing up for tax the compensation it paid to Singapore Telecommunications Ltd ("SingTel") for modification of SingTel's licence pursuant to the former Telecommunications Authority of Singapore ("TAS") Act. This mistake led to an alleged overpayment by TAS to SingTel in the amount of $388 million.

The High Court rejected IDA's claim. In doing so, the Court expanded considerably the local jurisprudence on the various defences available to a defendant resisting a claim founded on unilateral mistake. The Court also drew significant distinctions between the concepts of mistake of law and mistake of fact and recognised the need to establish clear boundaries to the otherwise far-reaching effects of allowing recovery based on a mistake of law.


The facts of the case were briefly as follows.

On 1 April 1992, TAS, the predecessor authority to IDA, granted SingTel a licence pursuant to s26 of the TAS Act (the "Licence") to provide telecommunication services to Singapore until 2017 with monopoly rights for the provision of basic telecommunication services until 2007.

In 1996, the Government of Singapore decided to liberalise the telecommunications sector to allow competition in the provision of basic telecommunication services as from March 2000, 7 years ahead of the expiry of SingTel's monopoly in these services in March 2007. Various meetings took place between representatives of TAS, SingTel and the Ministry of Communications ("Mincom") to discuss the process of liberalisation (which would necessitate a modification of SingTel's licence to allow competition in basic services) and to assess the compensation payable to SingTel for loss of its monopoly rights. Section 28 of the TAS Act provided, inter alia, for a notice to be issued by TAS to the licencee proposing the manner in which the modifications to the licence would be made and the compensation payable for any damage caused thereby.

Both TAS and SingTel appointed financial consultants to assess the quantum of damage...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT