The idea of going through a litigation process in UAE court can be daunting to many, especially if you are an expat. Most of the people are not familiar with the Dubai Law systems and how things work in courts. However, there are certain things that a potential litigant must know.
We are taking an attempt to satisfy most of your queries and a general overview of the courts of UAE and how the litigation procedure works.
The court system in the UAE is divided into 3 layers.
- The Court of First Instance (CFI)
- Court of Appeal (CA)
- Court of Cassation (CC)
- Federal Supreme Court
- The Court of First Instance:
It has general jurisdiction. It is further divided into 3 layers Civil, Criminal, and Personal Status. Civil sections look into commercial, labour, and contracts litigation cases, while the Personal Status sections handle cases related to family matters like divorce, inheritance, alimony, child custody, etc. In Criminal section cases are dealt a bit differently. This section looks into offenses like a misdemeanour, felony cases which are referred to the court by a public prosecutor. Public prosecutor initiates the investigation process by filing the case, investigating it and imposing charges on the accused. Let’s understand the step by step procedures of litigation in CFI.
- To commence a claim in CFI, first one need to file it online and chose the relevant court. Once accepted, CFI informs both the parties, then they exchange documents. The initial pleading is done at the Case Management Department, who then transfers the case to an appropriate section. The claim must be served (intimated) to the defendant by personal service. However, if the defendant cannot be found, the court usually orders assistance for the search of the defendant. If the defendant is still not located and personal service is not possible, one can publish it in 2 local newspapers, one English and one Arabic.
- On hearing, legal representatives of both the parties will have to produce Power of Attorney (POA). If in case the POA is not provided at the hearing, then till the time it is produced, the court will keep adjourning the hearing. Once CFI receives the POA, the court allows the defendant some time to respond to the claim (usually 2-3 weeks). There is a gap of 2-3 weeks in each hearing.
- It is common for CFI to appoint an expert. The expert reviews the documents, meet both parties discusses the case, and gives his/her report to the Court. The judges usually give their decisions based on these reports submitted by the experts. Testimonies of the witness are a rare scenario in Dubai courts, which makes the experts report crucial for judgement.
- After receiving the judgement, the parties can appeal to the Court of Appeal (CA).
- Court of Appeal:
Any party who is not satisfied with the judgement can appeal to CA within 30 days of the judgement. Generally, one can appeal only when the value of the claim is over AED 50,000. In cases related to labour, the lower limit is AED 20,000. CA has the authority to overturn a decision taken by CFI if it’s found to be factually or legally incorrect. It can take six months or more to complete.
- Court of Cassation:
The parties have the right to appeal to the Court of Cassation within 60 days of the judgement given by CA. The CC has the power to overturn the case only if there is a mistake in point of law. The CC can direct the lower courts to change the law. The decisions made by the CC are final and are not subject to further appeal. Meanwhile, it is advised for the applicant to also apply for a stay on the judgement of the lower court. The sum of the dispute must be equal or above AED 200,000 to qualify for CC.
- Federal Supreme Court:
Federal Supreme Court must hear some case like state security offenses, continuity of the laws or interpretation of the law, hearing of cases committed by senior officials and disputes between the seven emirates of the UAE. All the exhaustive matters which can’t be looked into by any other lower Emirati court are taken care by Federal court