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What will courts look like in the years ahead?

DIFC, Dubai Future Foundation draft rules on the use of technology for adjudicating small claims

  • The draft principles called Part 40,000 were unveiled at the World Economic Forum in DubaiImage Credit: Supplied
  • Timothy Walmsley, director of Marketing and Communications, Dispute Resolution Authority of DIFC CourtsImage Credit: Supplied
  • Disputes will be resolved through virtual courts in futureImage Credit: Supplied
  • Courts will be hyper-connected and globally interlocked with e-commerceImage Credit: Supplied

DUBAI: The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts and Dubai Future Foundation have put together a set of draft rules on how courts should function in the near future.

Called ‘Part 40,000’, the draft principles were unveiled at the annual World Economic Forum gathering held in Dubai recently.

According to Timothy Walmsley, director of Marketing and Communications, Dispute Resolution Authority of DIFC Courts, a copy of the rules has been sent to more than 100 courts worldwide for their feedback.

“The courts you see today were designed 200 years ago. The world has changed drastically since. Technology has taken over our lives and it is time for our courts to keep pace with the changing times. We have drafted these rules based on our assesment of what the world will look like 30 years from now,” said Walmsley.

Setting an example

“One of the things we have proposed is online resolution of micro-disputes in small claims tribunal. We are already doing this in our courts. We have set up a virtual courtroom. The parties involved in these cases attend the hearing by telephone, laptop or video-conferencing. The judge, however, sits at DIFC Courts itself,” explained Walmsley.

“We think this works well for a transient population like in Dubai. We don’t have to wait for people to turn up at the court. This has proved to be a much easier and quicker way of reaching a settlement,” he added. Last month DIFC Courts also enabled its e-Service.

“If there is a claim against someone, we do not serve it physically. Instead we use instant messaging or social media platforms. We started this service in October for micro disputes heard in our small cases tribunal. The claims in these cases don’t exceed half a million dirhams.”

Language no barrier anymore

Another issue taken up in the draft principles is with regard to the language spoken in courts. “Most cities in the world are a melting pot with diverse cultures. If you see our courts – they all speak one language. Whether in Dubai or anywhere else in the world, there is only one language spoken in the courts. The parties involved have to get the minutes of the proceedings translated. One has to double check for accuracy of the translation. All this is time consuming in a fast paced world of today.

“So we have proposed a virtual court where people with broadband connections can come together to resolve their disputes.

“There will be a technology delivering translations in multiple languages. Essentially there will be a text running on the side with the translation in a preferred language as the court room proceedings go on. It is instant and a huge time-saver.”

What next

The Part 40,000 rules have been published in DIFC Courts’ website.

“The next step is compiling comments and feedback from all the international courts. After retaining key points, we will be looking at prototyping this for the courts of the future. We understand executing this will take a while, but we are happy to have made the start.”

Courts of the Future: The shape of things to come

-In DIFC Courts’ prototype of the ‘global courts of the future’, everyone speaks a universal language.

-Using simultaneous translation, speakers will be able to talk and be understood instantly.

-No matter where the judge or parties are located, a court case can proceed as if they are all in the same courtroom.

-Disputes will be resolved through virtual courts without spending a second in the courtroom.

-Claims in the courts of the future, however, complex, will be determined remotely following the pattern of business around the globe.

-Courts will be hyper-connected and globally interlocked with e-commerce for ultra-rapid settlement.