The estate of the late Singapore Supreme Court Judge Choor Singh has donated S$200,000 for a scholarship to law students in the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).
Justice Choor, one of the highest ranking Sikh judges in Asia outside India who passed away nine years ago, served on Singapore’s Supreme Court bench for 17 years from 1963 to 1980.
The Choor Singh Study Award is intended to benefit deserving candidates in the Bachelor of Laws (LL B) and Juris Doctor (JD) Programmes. An award amounting to SGD10,000 may be made each year, according to a statement released by SUSS.
“My late father was a great believer in education. He himself had to work and study, while supporting a young family. He was only able to pursue his law studies in his 30s. It is therefore appropriate that the Study Award is created in his memory to encourage mature students to pursue law,” said Choor’s son Dr Daljeet Singh Sidhu in the statement.
“We believe that he would have been very pleased to know that we are supporting both the young and working adults, who need financial help to pursue their studies, especially in law,” he added.
In the same statement, SUSS Provost Professor Tsui Kai Chong said the scholarship will benefit deserving law students and will have a positive ripple effect on society at large when these students graduate and serve as legal professionals.
After 47 years in public service, Choor retired in 1980 at the age of 69. On the Sikh community front, he was he was one of the founding members of Singapore Khalsa Association (SKA) and played an instrumental role in various other activities.
He had also authored a number of books on the Sikh faith, including Bhai Maharaj Singh: Saint-soldier of the Sikh Faith, Understanding Sikhism: The Gospel of the Gurus and Who is a Sikh and other Essays.
Choor arrived in Singapore in 1917 at the age of six. The son of a poor, security guard, he went to Raffles Institution for his secondary school studies after completing his primary school education at Pearl’s Hill Primary School. After he completed his ‘O’ levels, he began work as a solicitor’s clerk in the law firm of Mallal & Namazie. Later he joined the Official Assignee’s office as a court clerk.
It was during the Japanese occupation of Singapore that he became interested in the law and began to study law despite difficult personal circumstances. He was able to pass the Overseas Bar Final Examination in April 1949. Soon after he was appointed a Magistrate in Colonial Malaya.
From then on, Justice Choor Singh rose through the Legal Service ranks becoming the Senior District Judge (now known as the Presiding Judge of the State Courts). In 1963 he was appointed a Supreme Court Judge. He remained a judge of the Supreme Court until his retirement in 1980.
Apart from rising to the pinnacle of the legal profession, Justice Choor Singh will be remembered as someone who actively participated in and contributed to the community. He was an influential member of the Sikh community with whom the government of the day often consulted on important issues touching the Sikh community, one of which was the establishment of the Sikh Advisory Board.
The background information on Choor came from a few sources, including Rishpal Singh Sidhu’s book ‘Singapore’s Early Sikh Pioneers’.
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