In what could be a significant development for Dubai's legal system, a new Dubai Decree was issued by H.H. The Ruler of Dubai (Decree 19/2016, the Decree) on 9 June 2016 to provide for the establishment of a new 'Judicial Tribunal for the Dubai Courts and the DIFC Courts'  to rule on (i) conflicts of jurisdiction and (ii) conflicts of judgments, between the DIFC Courts and the Dubai Courts. While there is currently no commentary or guidance published in relation to the Decree or the Judicial Tribunal, the Decree signals an important development in regulation of the relationship between the Courts of Dubai.

To summarise some key provisions of the Decree:

  • The Judicial Tribunal will be formed of the following members:
    • the Head of the Dubai Court of Cassation (as Chairman)
    • the Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts, a Judge of the DIFC Court of Appeal and a Judge of the DIFC Court of First Instance
    • the Head of the Dubai Court of Appeal, the Head of the Dubai Court of First Instance and the Secretary General of the Judicial Council
  • Decisions of the Judicial Tribunal will be carried by a majority of the voting members in attendance (in the event that the votes are equal, the Chairman's vote will be decisive). 
  • Applications to the Judicial Tribunal are noted to have the effect of staying the related underlying proceedings in both the DIFC Courts and Dubai Courts.
  • Deliberations of the Judicial Tribunal will be private and its decisions shall be issued no later than 30 days following an application.
  • The Decree also provides that the Judicial Tribunal will formulate rules and guidance on dealing with potential conflicts of jurisdiction between the Courts.

There are a number of issues regarding this nascent Tribunal and its procedures on which the Decree is silent and which will need to be answered and clarified for litigators and practitioners in due course. For example, the Decree does not make provision for: service/notice of an application; the right of a respondent to make submissions in reply to an application; the language of proceedings before the Judicial Tribunal; whether the Decree has retrospective effect; oversight of the Judicial Tribunal and the procedural rules by which it is governed; and the Judicial Tribunal's constitutional status.

It is hoped that further guidance and rules in relation to proceedings before the Judicial Tribunal will be published soon to guide parties and provide certainty.  For now, it is a matter of awareness of this new development while its significance and effect on underlying proceedings is worked out in practice.  We will continue to monitor these developments and will issue a further update once there is greater clarity around the Decree and its subject matter.