In general terms, civil procedures laws govern civil trials as opposed to criminal trials. In a ‘civil trial,’ the claim is instituted by a person or corporate entity against another person or entity. In comparison in ‘criminal trials’ the state prosecutes the accused against whom a charge has been filed after the completion of a police investigation.
Three Tier Court System:
The local court system in the UAE consists of a three-tier system comprising of the Court of First Instance (federal and local), Court of Appeal (federal and local), Court of Cassation at the local level of the emirates and the Federal Supreme Court (at the federal level). The Three-tier legal system essentially allows the parties to challenge the court’s judgment with a higher court and to be able to present more evidence as well as to participate in further adjudication in a given matter. In the court process, a judgment is said to become final when it either completes the three stages of litigation or the maximum stages possible. For instance, in certain matters based on the claim amount, it might not be possible to appeal the case up to the cassation court. In another instance, if either the judgment creditor or debtor choose to accept the judgment issued by the first court as it is, and forgo the appeal process, the judgment will become final.
Though often stated as a civil law system, the UAE is, in fact, constitutes a dual legal system of civil and Sharia laws. Further, the country has also introduced common law to a certain extent, as the same is practiced in the Dubai International Free zone Centre (DIFC). DIFC describes its presence as a unique legal framework that is based on international standards and principles of common law that are focused on catering to the regional requirements. Overall, the legal system in the UAE draws from Islamic Sharia law. However, most of the codified laws of the UAE can be defined to be a mixture of both Islamic Sharia laws as well as the legal influences from the Egyptian and French Civil laws. Litigation, in general, can be a costly as well as time-consuming experience. However, compared to many other jurisdictions, the UAE court procedures are more fast-paced with definitive measures in place.
Civil procedure in the UAE:
The civil procedure in the UAE is governed by Federal Law No. 11/1992 on the Civil Procedures Law (“the Civil Code’), its amendments and its implementing regulations. There are two possible litigation procedures that can be taken before the local courts; one involves ‘summary procedures’ and the other detailed ‘substantial claim’.
A summary procedure is often referred to as a ‘payment order’, and applied when the amounts due to the creditor have been confirmed either electronically or in writing by the payment debtor. Further to this, it is also required that the payment be specific and defined and thus shall not apply in instances of unliquidated damages. Other procedural requirements also need to have a demand notice be made by the creditor to the debtor, allotting at least five days’ time to make the payment. Once the notice period lapses and if the debtor defaults in making the payment even after notice, then the creditor is allowed to submit his claim before the UAE courts. Of late in a few decisions, the court had declined substantial claim cases on account of lack of jurisdiction as the cases were to be filed as payment order matters. This had led to some confusion and resulted in further amendments for the civil procedure stating that’ creditors have the option to either commence a summary procedure to obtain a payment order to file a substantial claim, without having to start with a payment order claim, when the conditions of a payment order are satisfied. This essentially clarifies that the courts have jurisdiction to handle both claims.
The appeal time period that applies for a ‘substantial claim’ and ‘summary claim’ preceding also differ. In summary claims generally, once the judgment is issued, it is served upon the defendant, who then has a fifteen days grace period to appeal the judgment. While in the instance of a substantive claim judgment, the appeal time period is usually thirty days, though it can be limited to ten days in the instance of urgent matter cases. While there exists a significant difference between summary claim proceedings and substantive claim proceedings, it is essential to note that though both processes are procedurally different wherein in a summary claim proceedings are fairly simpler and straightforward, while in a standard substantive claim, they are more merit oriented and require more time in adjudication. That said, as we mentioned earlier, the court proceeding in the UAE civil courts are extremely definitive and time conscious, with the courts often restricting any unproductive adjudication measures.