UAE Courts: All you should know

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on July 14, 2023, 17:40:59


courts in UAE

Courts in the United Arab Emirates

The UAE came into existence as an independent Federated State on 02 December 1971, consisting of six Emirates - Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. The seventh Emirate Ras Al Khaimah joined UAE on 10th February 1972.

The UAE Constitution has adopted three levels of Courts, they are -

  • Court of First Instance (federal and local)
  • Court of Appeal (federal and local)
  • The Federal Supreme Court (federal) and the Court of Cassation (local) have independent judicial departments.

How the Courts in the UAE work?

The Courts in the UAE works hierarchically-

  • Court of First Instance - The Court of First Instance has the jurisdiction to hear all the civil, administrative, commercial, labour and personal law This is the first degree of litigation, which means it has the jurisdiction to examine the claims and hear all the matters regarding disputes. The Court of First instance is the jurisdictional body where the matters in dispute are first brought to seek justice. This Court has the power to enforce the judicial execution, and deputation or referral executions.
  • Court of Appeal - The persons who are unsatisfied or affected by the order passed by the Court of First Instance can proceed to the Court of Appeal against the order passed. The appeal filed is subject to the civil and criminal law procedure of the UAE. For Civil suits, any appeal must be filed within 30 days from the date of passing the Judgment. On the expiry of the time limit, the right to appeal is ceased provided there is no exception. However, in urgent cases, the time limit to file an appeal for summary suits is 15 days.
  • Court of Cassation- Subject to certain specified conditions, the appeal can be filed against the Judgment passed by the Court of Appeal before the Court of Cassation. The Court of Cassation has the power to administer the interpretation of the law and ensure the implementation of such laws.To file an appeal before the Court of Cassation, these two conditions require to be complied with:

    (i) The appeal can be filed only on a point of law, if there is a violation of law or if the Judgment is the result of a misinterpretation of the existing law; or

(ii)The claim in the matter must not be less than AED 200,000.

If the matter complies with any of the two conditions, the appeal must be filed within 60 days from the date of passing the Judgment by the Court of Appeal. Any Judgment passed by the Court of Cassation is not eligible to appeal anywhere else, it is the final Judgment.

Court Circuits

The court at each level has a President, several Judges or single Judges wherever required, and administrative officers.

Under the judicial circuits, there are several branches of court with specific jurisdictions. At each level of the judicial system, the respective circuits look into several matters such as - civil matters, criminal matters and personal statute matters. Based on the scope of the case and the expertise possessed by the Judges, the division is made.

The person bringing up a lawsuit must carefully observe under which circuit the lawsuit shall be filed before taking it to a Court. Depending on the value, and the subject matter of the case, the matter shall either go to the minor circuits or the major circuits.

  • Minor Circuits: As amended by Law No. 10 of 2014 concerning the Procedural Law, Article 30 of the Federal Law No. 11 of 1992, the minor circuits are formed. The minor circuits have a single Judge empowered to pass the first instance Judgment in the matters of civil, commercial and labor.
    The value of the matters and the counterclaims does not exceed AED 500,000 are taken before the minor circuits.

The minor circuits have the power to review the matters of personal status, division of common property, employment matters involving claims and specification of salaries and wages.
However, for the lawsuits whose value does not exceed AED 20,000, the Judgment passed by the minor circuit is final.

  • Major Circuits: The major circuits consist of three Judges and have jurisdiction over matters of Civil, Commercial and Labour matters, which the minor circuits do not take up.

The major circuits also have jurisdictions in dealing in the matters of:

  • Real estate matters and administrative matters. Irrelevant to their values.
  • Summary claims and other counterclaims also include claims related to the original request.
  • Bankruptcy matters
  • Preventive composition lawsuits.

Other than these two, each court consists of judicial circuits in the matter of personal statutes, civil, criminal, real estate and labor.

  • Labor Court: The cases involving employment matters, where the employee in a private sector is bringing a lawsuit against the employer can file in this court. The Federal Law no. 8 of 1980 concerning the Regulation of Labor relations regulates the matter. Usually, the matters related to the unpaid salary, not providing service benefits, rejecting the allotted leaves and compensation in the matter of arbitrary dismissal.
  • Personal Status Court: All the matters under the family and personal law such as marriage, divorce, guardianship, alimony, custody of children and visitation, proof of maturity, proof of lineage, inheritance, etc., are taken before the Personal status court.
  • Civil Courts: The cases of the financial rights of the individuals and other legal entities are handled by the Civil court following the provisions of Federal Law No. 5 of 1985. The civil matters mainly include dispute relevant to validity, implementation, cancellation or termination of a contract, land-related matters including mortgages and intellectual property matters.
  • Commercial Courts: Following the regulations under Federal Law No. 18 of 1993 regarding commercial transactions, the commercial contracts and commitment, commercial documents, banking procedures, bankruptcy matters, and reconciliation matters are handled by the commercial court.
  • Criminal Court: Any criminal matter initiated by the local or federal prosecution in each emirate is handled by the respective criminal court.

In addition to the above-mentioned system, the UAE also has certain Common Law courts such as the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts and Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts, which are independent judicial authorities modelled on the English judicial system.