Dubai: From January 2, 2022, a new law came into effect in the UAE, which decriminalised cases of bounced cheques – with a few notable exceptions – thus amending a previous law, which stipulated that anyone who issues a cheque which is not honoured can face criminal proceedings.
The law – Federal Decree Law No. (14) of 2020 Amending Certain Provisions of the Federal Law No. (18) of 1993 Concerning the Commercial Transaction Law – was issued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on September 27, 2020.
While the law itself is quite detailed, one of the key takeaways that affects people is the fact that bounced cheque cases have been decriminalised. However, what happens to bounced cheque cases that have already been registered with the authorities before January 2, 2022?
For example, a Gulf News reader wrote in enquiring about the new law and how it would impact his particular case. He asked: “I'm living in Dubai on a partner visa and wanted to ask about new UAE law regarding financial cases and how it affects immigration status. I have heard that if someone has a bounced cheque case, which is registered in 2021, then his or her immigration status will not be affected. As in, they will be able to travel and can even renew their visa from January 2, 2022.
“Kindly guide me on this issue, as I have a bounced cheque case, which was registered earlier and my partner visa expired because I had the case registered against me. Now, I want to know if I can travel or renew my visa after January 2, 2022 despite the case against me.”
Aditi Gandhi, a Dubai-based lawyer, explained what the new law says about decriminalising some cases of bounced cheques and what happens to previously registered cases.
“The new law in question is Federal Law No. 14 of 2020, which makes path-breaking amendments in relation to the dishonour of cheques and limits the options for filing a criminal action for a bounced cheque. The law de-criminalises bounced cheques – except specific cases related to forgery, ‘stop payment' instructions, etc. – and is in force since January 2, 2022,” she said.
But what happens to cases that have already been filed with the police or are pending investigation or adjudication by the criminal court? Gandhi noted that Attorney General’s Office, Government of Dubai issued Circular No. 9 of 2021 directing police and public prosecution authorities to close all pending cases on bounced cheques or cases that are already decided by criminal courts.
“The idea of the circular was to give benefit of the new law to those cases which were filed prior to January 2, 2022,” she said.
“In response to the specific query raised by the reader in question, yes it is possible to renew your visa. However, you will need to visit the police station or public prosecution office (depending on the status of your case) and formally remove the case registered against your name. Only once the case is removed, can you renew your visa or travel, as the case may be,” she added.
Yes, it is possible to renew your visa. However, you will need to visit the police station or public prosecution office (depending on the status of your case) and formally remove the case registered against your name.
What does the Public Prosecution circular say?
Explaining the significance of the circular, issued by the Dubai Public Prosecution, Attorney General’s Office, Hari Wadhwana, an Associate at Dubai-based law firm OGH Legal, explained the essential elements of the circular and how it would impact individuals who were involved in cases related to cheques being dishonoured.
Depending on which stage of legal proceedings a bounced cheque was at, the Attorney General’s office provided the actions that could to be taken, in line with the new law. However, this would be applicable to cases registered in the Emirate of Dubai.
Here is a breakdown of the actions that the Dubai Attorney General’s office recommended in the circular:
In the circular, the Dubai Attorney General’s office has advised the General Department of Criminal Investigation to further communicate to all police stations to dismiss all criminal complaints which relate to decriminalised cases and to seize all warrants issued against the accused.
Criminal complaints pending with the police
“In the circular, the Dubai Attorney General’s office has advised the General Department of Criminal Investigation to further communicate to all police stations to dismiss all criminal complaints which relate to decriminalised cases and to seize all warrants issued against the accused,” Wadhwana said.
Criminal cases under investigation
As for cases that are currently under investigation, the office advised the Public Prosecution office to administratively close the cases where investigations have not commenced or to stay the investigation in case it has commenced and to issue seizure of search warrants against the accused.
“Additionally, the Dubai Attorney General’s Office [in the circular] asked the Public Prosecution department to release the accused who are in detention. Public Prosecution can continue with their investigation for acts which are still deemed as a crime under the amendment,” Wadhwana added.
Criminal cases with Court of First Instance
“Dubai Public Prosecution office shall request for acquittal of the accused which relates to the crimes that are now decriminalised,” Wadhwana said.
Criminal judgements that are under execution i.e. arrest of the accused
The court department will ensure to issue executive orders to release the accused, stop the travel ban and seize arrest warrant, according to the circular, Wadhwana said. “This needs to be done by January 2, 2022,” he added.
The circular was issued on December 19, 2021.
Criminal judgements that are not yet executed i.e. arrest has not been affected
The court department will ensure to issue orders to stop the travel ban and lift all warrants.
“The effect is that the police and court officers will start to dismiss complaints that are pending in police or prosecution and release the accused that have been subject to penalty under the old criminal law of dishonour of cheques,” Wadhwana added.
“Lastly, I would recommend to the readers to take legal guidance if their cases or judgements fall within the decriminalised acts pursuant to the amendments,” Wadhwana said.