Dubai Courts during COVID-19
As the pandemic has posed an unprecedented threat to lives and communities across the world, courts in Dubai have adapted to smart solutions to make sure work continues unhindered. Image Credit:

Dubai: Litigation and arbitration processes around the globe have been affected due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the wheels of justice didn’t come to a halt in Dubai Courts.

From holding remote hearings to constituting a Digital Justice Bench, Dubai Courts have found a way to work around the pandemic and move the processes of arbitration and litigation into the new era of smart courts.

As the pandemic has posed an unprecedented threat to lives and communities across the world, courts in Dubai have adapted to smart solutions to make sure work continues unhindered, an official told Gulf News.

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Mohammed Al Suboosi, Chief Justice of Dubai Court of First Instance, said that swift action taken by Dubai Courts to conduct 100 per cent of their functions remotely during the pandemic resulted in an increased use of remote hearings.

“Dubai Courts are ready to continue with 100 per cent remote working even in a post-pandemic scenario. The courts had developed a digital infrastructure even before COVID-19 struck. The readiness of all parties to work remotely will play a key role in continuing with the current workflow,” Judge Al Suboosi told Gulf News.

Remotre hearings

“The pandemic helped speed up the process of using remote hearings and smart platforms. This has helped enhance the efficiency and transparency of the judiciary,” he added.

Dubai Courts is a world leader, pioneering to achieve accuracy, speed and making judicial services accessible to everyone. People can register their cases online without coming to the courts.

- Mohammed Al Saboosi, Chief Justice of Dubai Court of First Instance

After movement restrictions were eased in the emirate, Dubai Courts followed intensive precautionary measures such as using thermal screening and making wearing of masks mandatory. The courts also asked people to move their applications through smart channels and the Dubai Courts website in order to minimise the number of people physically visiting the court rooms.

“Dubai Courts is a world leader, pioneering to achieve accuracy, speed and making judicial services accessible to everyone. People can register their cases online without coming to the courts,” Al Suboosi added.

Digital Justice Bench

In late 2019, Dubai Courts launched a remote litigation facility called ‘Digital justice Bench’ that allows hearings to take place digitally, with judges able to hear cases live before delivering the verdicts.

The hi-tech initiative was in line with the UAE government’s strategy, aimed at limiting social interactions and thereby limiting the spread of coronavirus infections in the country.

“The initiative is meant for commercial cases above Dh50 million. It helped accelerate the process, handing out judgements on the same day as the hearing. During COVID-19, we used the same mechanism to other cases,” Al Suboosi said.

All parties involved in the hearings — defendants, complainants and legal counsel — are able to access a live video link. “Parties and lawyers can submit their documents through smart channels to the digital bench and enjoy a faster process in the delivery of judgements.”

Publishing 300,000 rulings online

Al Suboosi further said Dubai Courts is among the world’s top-ten courts and the first in the region to publish full judicial rulings online, with reasons explaining the verdicts in Arabic and English.

According to Dubai Courts, around 300,000 rulings — issued since 2010 for all court types — were published in detail on the court’s website and smart application.

“Dubai Courts have a target to be among the top three in global competitiveness.”

Judge Al Suboosi said that Dubai Courts have improved the availability of judgements online down the years to include case numbers, registration dates, judgement dates and duration of the cases.

“This will enhance the transparency, especially for investors inside and outside the country,” he added.

Standard Operating Procedures at courts

As a precautionary measure against COVID-19, Dubai Courts announced the postponement of all court hearings at Cassation, Appeal and First Instance from March 22 to April 16 this year.

From April 19, all hearings between parties were conducted electronically, using a video conferencing software. The filing of all new cases was also carried out electronically.

Hearings for criminal cases and appeals involving inmates and detainees continue remotely.

All precautionary attachment applications need to be filed electronically to the summary judge. The judge then renders a decision remotely and uploads it electronically.