In its recent judgment in Content Union SA v CJSC "TV Company Stream" and others,(1) the Cyprus Supreme Court reversed first-instance judgments with which orders allowing substituted service were set aside. When called to interpret the relevant bilateral treaty, the Court analysed its provisions contextually, taking into account its purpose, as set out in the preamble, which was to provide for mutual legal assistance between the contracting states.
On 12 July 2017, the plaintiffs filed an action against a Cyprus company and another four defendants based outside the Cyprus jurisdiction, and particularly in Russia. The plaintiffs were granted leave to effect service on the non-Cyprus defendants on 27 July 2017. Leave was granted for service to be effected through diplomatic channels, as per the provisions of the bilateral treaty between the former Soviet Union and the Republic of Cyprus on legal assistance in civil and criminal matters of 1984.
Several months later, and by 10 October 2017, service to the non-Cyprus defendants via the diplomatic channels had still not been effected.
Therefore, the plaintiffs sought leave of the court to proceed with substituted service on the defendants' lawyers in Cyprus, as per the provisions of the Cyprus Civil Procedure Rules. Leave was granted on 12 October 2017.
The defendants argued that substituted service pursuant to the Cyprus Civil Procedure Rules was incompatible with the provisions of the relevant treaty. In considering their application to have the respective orders set aside, the first-instance court adopted this view and proceeded to set aside the orders allowing substituted service.
The plaintiffs filed Appeals No. E96/2018 and E97/2018 and the matter was referred to the Supreme Court.
In its analysis, the Court considered the relevant treaty holistically, drawing on its preamble and its intended purpose to provide mutual legal assistance, when interpreting its provisions and evaluating whether service under the Civil Procedure Rules was incompatible with it.
The Court avoided taking a narrow and formalistic approach, and concluded that substituted service not only served the purpose of the treaty but was also not expressly precluded under it.
In view of the above, the Court dismissed the judgment setting aside the orders granting leave for substitute service.
Often, when parties are required to make service of documents through diplomatic channels, they are faced with inevitable delays. In parallel, they are unable to assist the service process, as the delays and difficulties faced are beyond their control.
By seeking to serve justice broadly, the Court has now set a precedent on how first-instance courts can help parties avoid the domino effect of such delays onto the judicial process, by opening the door to the possibility of alternative means of service, when appropriate.
For further information on this topic please contact Antreas Koualis, Elina Nikolaidou or Christianna Tzalavreta at AG Erotocritou LLC by telephone (+357 25 370 101) or email ([email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]). The AG Erotocritou LLC website can be accessed at www.erotocritou.com.
(1) Civil Appeals No. E96/2018 and E97/2018, dated 24 January 2022.