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Dubai: Despite the Legal Order in Dubai helping to improve the judiciary’s efficiency and reducing its workload where bounce cheque cases are concerned, lawyers have urged that the order is issued by judges, not senior prosecutors.

During a session organised by Emirates Association for Lawyers and Dubai Public Prosecution last week, lawyers and prosecutors discussed the Legal Order Law No 1 of 2017 came into effect in December 2017, according to which people with bounced cheques worth less than Dh200,000 can be punished by prosecution without the case being referred to court, against a maximum fine of Dh10,000.

"Opponent can't be judge"

Emirati lawyers told Gulf News that the prosecution can’t be the opponent and the judge at the same time in bounced cheque cases.

“The prosecutor in the case is the suspect’s opponent and legally, can’t be the opponent and the one who issues the Legal Order. Such cases should be referred to a specialised judge of the one-day court,” lawyer Zayed Saeed Al Shamsi, chairman of the Board of Directors of the association told Gulf News.

The Legal Order is optional

During the session titled ‘Judicial Salon’, Dubai’s senior advocate general Ali Humaid Bin Khatem said that the Legal Order is optional, not a must for suspects in bounced cheque cases.

“Legal Order is optional like the traffic fine, people can either pay the fine or contest it. In the Legal Order, the suspect has the option to accept it and pay the fine or to appeal against it. Prosecution is not always against the suspect in cases,” Bin Khatem said.

He said according to statistics before the legal order, most bounce cheque cases end up with fines.

According to the law, the defendant can appeal within seven days against the Legal Order and he will face a judge in the Appeal Court to present his or her defence.

Handling the travel ban

However, lawyers criticised the mechanism of the Legal Order, claiming there must be facilities at airports and police stations to pay the fine of the Legal Order and waive the travel ban.

Emirati lawyer Ali Musabah, owner of Ali Musabah Advocate and Legal Consultants, said that sometimes the Legal Order upset his clients’ travel plans as the fine came as a surprise at boarding points.

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He said airports don’t have facilities to make the payment of the Legal Order fine and waive the travel ban.

“Usually text message is sent to the suspect’s phone to inform him about the Legal Order session or the payment, but what if the person has many phone numbers or doesn’t check the phone? We need ways through which payment can be made in the airport or police stations,” lawyer Musabah told Gulf News.

Dubai Public Prosecution announced during Gitex Technology week that people with bounced cheques worth less than Dh200,000 in Dubai can pay their fines on their smartphones without having to go to the police station through a link which will be sent to their mobile phone. They can proceed online and complete the formalities through face recognition technology, eliminating the need to see a prosecution representative.

According to Dubai Public Prosecution, the Penal Order legislation has further improved the working processes of the Dubai Public Prosecution, enabling it to settle 30,618 cases between November 2017 and the end of 2018.

Dubai’s attorney-general Essam Eisa Al Humaidan said bounced cheques of up to Dh200,000 represented the highest percentage of cases settled by the Penal Order legislation with 26,765 cases or 87 per cent of total cases, while refusal of payment cases represented three per cent (951) of the cases.

Bounced cheque case victims’ rights

Contrary to the popular belief that bounced cheque cases in the UAE can be closed by just paying a fine, prosecutor Bin Khatem said it is within the rights of the victims to file civil cases against those who issue such cheques.

“Victims in bounced cheque cases can still exercise their rights by opening a civil case against the issuer of the cheque for the amount of the cheque plus compensation. Victims can get copy of the Legal Order and pursue their rights in the civil court. Legal Order cuts the time on victims by getting the order copy in one day and go to the civil court,” Bin Khatem said during the legal session.

Cheque value drops in the market

Lawyers said the Legal Order has a negative impact on the cheque value in the market as people who issue the bounced cheques know they have to pay a Dh10,000 fine if the bounced cheque is worth less than Dh200,000.

“The value of cheques have dropped in the market, especially among merchants, as they know the person who writes a cheque to them doesn’t care anymore knowing he can pay the fine. In the past, the penalty was a jail term, but now only for cheques worth more than Dh200,000,” lawyer Ali Musabah said.

Meanwhile, Lawyer Al Shamsi told Gulf News that the Legal Order can impact the economy.

“Before, the cheque was a trusted tool to ensure people’s rights in the market. But after people pay the fine in the Legal Order, people know the value of the cheque has dropped.”

Record still shows felony

Al Shamsi said that many people think that their record will be clean by paying the Legal Order fine, but the truth is it is recorded as a felony in the person’s record.

“A friend told me that he paid Dh2,000 fine for a bounced cheque worth Dh48,000. He was happy that he collected his passport and left, but I told him it is still a felony in your record. People don’t know conviction in a Legal Order will remain in the criminal record,” lawyer Al Shamsi told Gulf News.

However, he said people can appeal against the Legal Order and present their defence in front of the judge.

Fines for bounced cheques

· Bounced cheques worth Dh1 to Dh50,000: Dh2,000

· Bounced cheques worth Dh50,000 to Dh100,000: Dh5,000

· Bounced cheques worth Dh100,000 to Dh200,000: Dh10,000