NUS confers Honorary Doctor of Laws on Justice Chao Hick Tin

Singapore’s flagship university celebrates achievements of 10,867 graduates from NUS Class of 2018

The National University of Singapore (NUS) today presented an honorary degree, the University’s highest honour, to Justice Chao Hick Tin, Senior Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore. 

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NUS Chancellor Madam Halimah Yacob (right) conferred the Honorary Doctor of Laws on Justice Chao Hick Tin (left) at the Main Ceremony of NUS Commencement 2018 held on 12 July 2018.

Madam Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore and NUS Chancellor, conferred the Honorary Doctor of Laws on Justice Chao Hick Tin at the Main Ceremony of NUS Commencement 2018. About 360 graduates from the NUS Faculty of Law were also conferred their degrees at the ceremony. 

The NUS Class of 2018 comprises 10,867 graduates: 6,785 students will receive Bachelor’s degrees and 4,082 will receive graduate degrees. A total of 23 ceremonies will be held at the NUS University Cultural Centre over a period of eight days, from 12 to 19 July 2018. NUS Commencement 2018 will conclude with the Commencement Dinner, which will be held on Friday, 20 July. 

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “We are proud to be celebrating the achievements of the NUS Class of 2018 on this day. The journey ahead for our graduates will be exciting - I have every confidence that they will excel in their chosen paths, overcome challenges that might come their way, and make a difference in society – as their predecessors have done. I would like to urge our graduates to never stop learning, and to assure them that NUS will be their anchor for lifelong learning, as they grow in their careers.”

“We are very privileged this year to be able to confer the Honorary Doctor of Laws on a very distinguished Singaporean, Justice Chao Hick Tin. Justice Chao’s contributions over the past 50 years in public service has helped shaped the legal system in Singapore and establish the country as a leading legal hub in Asia. Justice Chao’s remarkable achievements provide an inspiration to the many aspiring lawyers who are graduating today to be passionate about the law, and to serve their legal careers with integrity and humility,” Prof Tan added. 

This year, NUS will be presenting pioneer graduates from the following programmes:

  • Bachelor of Computing (Information Security)
  • Master of Dental Surgery (Paediatric Dentistry)
  • Master of Science (Applied Geographic Information Systems)
  • Master of Science (Chemistry for Energy and Environment)
  • Master of Technology (IT Leadership)
  • NUS-Renmin University of China Double Degree Programme: Master of Science (Real Estate)
  • NUS-The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Joint Degree Programme: Doctor of Philosophy – Pharmacy
  • NUS-University of Geneva Double Degree Programme: Master of Laws (International Arbitration & Dispute Resolution)

Please refer to Annex A for more information on these programmes. 

2018 Honorary Doctor of Laws Recipient – Justice Chao Hick Tin

Among the longest serving (more than 50 years in public service) and distinguished public servants in the history of Singapore, Justice Chao Hick Tin has been described as being “a steadying hand in a world lurching from crisis to crisis" and an "exceptional generalist jurist".

Justice Chao graduated with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Law from University College, London, in 1965 and 1966. Almost immediately, he joined the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), rising to the rank of Senior Counsel in 1979. Following two decades at the AGC, he joined the bench in 1987 as a Judicial Commissioner and then as a High Court Judge in 1990, and Judge of Appeal in 1999. He was appointed Attorney-General for two years in 2006 before returning to the Supreme Court as Vice-President of the Court of Appeal, a position he held until his retirement in 2017. He was re-appointed as a Senior Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore in January 2018.

Among the many achievements and contributions from his distinguished career, Justice Chao was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang) at the National Day Awards of 2008 for his special contributions to the Pedra Branca dispute case. He was also credited for extending the international reach of the AGC by building relationships with non-Common Law states such as Qatar, and enhancing Singapore’s already strong relationships with the AGCs of Malaysia and Brunei. 

Throughout his judicial tenure from 1987 to 2017, Justice Chao also delivered numerous judgments of great commercial importance, as well as landmark judgements, such as the following:

  • He clarified the law on hypothecation, and fixed and floating charges in Re Lin Securities (Pte); Chi Man Kwong Peter v Asia Commercial Bank [1988] SLR 340 and Re City Securities Pte; Ho Mun-Tuke Don v Dresdner Bank [1990] SLR 468. These judgments emphasised the importance of considering the context and surrounding circumstances of the transactions to determine if the particular security created a fixed or floating charge, and dramatically re-shaped securities law and practice in Singapore.
  • In Merck & Co Inc v Pharmaforte Singapore Pte Ltd [2000] 3 SLR 717 and Genelabs Diagnostics Pte Ltd v Institute Pasteur [2001] 1 SLR 121, he delivered the Court of Appeal’s first pronouncements on the fundamentals of patent law in the field of biotechnology, specifically concentrating on the areas of novelty, inventive step, utility, sufficiency of disclosure and infringement.
  • His judgment for the Court of Appeal in APL Co Pte Ltd v Voss Peer [2002] 4 SLR 481 received international attention and approval. In this case, it was held that a straight bill of lading (a bill of lading consigned to a named consignee) could not be equated with a sea waybill, and production of a straight bill of lading was a necessary prerequisite to obtain delivery of the goods in question. The Court of Appeal’s decision was subsequently endorsed by the English Court of Appeal and the House of Lords in The Rafaela S [2005] UKHL 11.

Said Justice Chao, “I am greatly surprised and also humbled by this honorary degree. I did not in the least expect to receive it, and am deeply grateful to NUS for so graciously considering me worthy of it.”

Please refer to Annex B for the citation on Justice Chao Hick Tin.