“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”

-Bill Gates

Introduction

Dubai has evolved to become the marketing and commercial hub of the Middle Eastern region. A surfeit of investors, traders and tourists flock into the Emirate on a daily or rather an hourly basis. All of Dubai’s biggest and most commendable feats have been due to its ability to take calculated risks and introduce the novel, bespoke and contemporary ideas. However, one could believe that disputes and legal matters within the region would eventually increase given the voluminous domestic and cross-border trade, an influx of investors and with the entry of diverse workforce. Therefore, this has simultaneously aided in the elevation of the number of lawsuits in the Emirate.

To overcome these hurdles resulting from increased law-suits the Dubai Courts recently launched an innovative service named Al Salfa which allowed parties to register their cases online and thereby removing the barrier as to physically submitting claims before the court. This is the first program of its kind in the Emirate, and is currently the basis on which cases are currently registered in Dubai. This new program promotes efficiency, speed, and ease, allowing users to register their cases at their convenience. In the first instance, this program was introduced in the year 2010 and was available only to registered law firms andlawyers in Dubai. Soon enough, however, this E-service became available to all clients, enabling them to register all types of cases, orders on petitions, provisional attachments and summary actions electronically. Virtually every matter including real estate disputes, commercial, labor, civil and personal affairs could be instituted under this new online system. Further, the authorities have also permitted orders upon petitions of all kinds, precautionary attachments, and other urgent matters to be instituted electronically.

The governmental authorities, on the other hand, began to make use of Al Salfa by registering legal delegations, such as delegations in execution or notification. In fact, this service was embraced by the Free Zone Authority in Jebel Ali as well to register all it’s labor cases through Al Salfa, thereby saving workers the time and effort it would cost them if they were sent straight to Dubai Courts.

On their website, the Dubai Courts clarify that the method of online registration, uploading of the statement of claims, and the documents attached thereto shall be reviewed by specialists at the E-services section. The competent authorities, then, would review the details of the case and the papers attached thereto to ensure the validity of the claims and electronically communicate with the suitor to update him on the status of his application.

Need for Intervention

As advantageous and easy to use this new service is, legal problems do arise on its application, which we will further explicate in this article. We will review these problems and propose solutions that may be contributed towards the resolving of these problems, hoping that these problems will gather enough attention to lead to registration of cases in all courts, free of any legal problems that may affect the rights of the litigant.

The positive characteristics of electronic registration of cases via the Al Salfa program are numerous. Cases can be registered at any time and from any place in addition to the smoothness and rapidity of obtaining files and information, saving time, environmentally conscious reduction of paper waste, avoiding overstocked lawsuit files and reducing crowding in court buildings. Furthermore, this service is even available to specialists, judges, executives, bailiffs, secretaries and litigants. In the manual registration of claims, we see problems arising with names of companies that do not actually exist due to its legal form or a change in its name. Electronic registration removes this hindrance as well, as names and addresses are audited in order to establish the actual existence of natural and legal persons before judgment is passed.

Despite the clear upsides to the usage of this service, the legal problems that arise from the application of this program might affect the validity of claims and procedures, leading to a judgment that doesn’t accept a lawsuit or challenge.

According to the laws stipulated by the Dubai Courts, there is a specific time period during which filing of lawsuits or registration of appeals is permitted and valid. The problem arises when we realize that electronic registration of cases is not technically done on the same day since it is subject to aforementioned reviewing and auditing, which could take months depending on the type of case that is filed.

The dilemma here is to figure out if the date of electronic submission is to be considered as the date of registration of a case or not.

Fortunately, however, the Court of Cassation resolved this dilemma by deciding that the date of submission of an electronic application should be taken into consideration [i]. Furthermore, Federal Law Number 21 of 2015 Establishing Judicial Fees of Dubai Courts (the Amendment), states in Article 162(1): The appeal shall be filed by virtue of a memorandum submitted to the Case Management Office at the competent court of appeal. The memorandum shall be immediately registered either in the relevant register or electronically…” Thus, in accordance with the aforementioned law, the date of submission is formally considered the date of filing the appeal, thereby conforming to the time period restrictions on cases, as stipulated by the law.

In order to file a challenge before the Court of Cassation or Court of Appeals, one must deposit a security with the treasury in order to ensure the validity of the deposit and for orderly compliance.

Under Article 37, the Amendment, it is stated that [ii]:

{i. - The claimant, upon submitting the challenge by appeal in the lawsuits relating to rights, should deposit a security amounted to (AED 1000) in the court treasury.

{. - The claimant, upon submitting the challenge by cassation in the lawsuits relating to rights, should deposit a security amounted to (AED 3000) in the court treasury.

Given that matters were manually registered prior to the launch of Al Salfa, there were no problems depositing a security in person. The Court of Cassation has decided in several judgments that in cases where a petition was challenged before the Court of Cassation and where such petition did not carry a proof of payment towards applicable fees, such petition would not be accepted as a challenge by the court [iii]. (unless the claimant is not exempted from paying the fee as decided as per the provisions of the law.) However, the aforementioned Article 162 of the Amendment doesn’t mention the deposit form of security required for an appeal when matters are registered electronically, nor makes any reference as to any such requirement. This legal conundrum, to us, is one of the most concerning contradictions that arise due to the application of the Al Salfa E-service.

Conclusion

As we see, the creation of an E-service like Al Salfa has definitely eradicated several cumbersome problems when it comes to registering cases manually and has proven incredibly advantageous to its users. It is a fascinating and commendable service that does its users a whole lot of good. However, there are some legal complexities that might complicate the usage of this service and encumber it with a sense of powerlessness.

As a solution, our proposal to a concerned legislator would be the amend the law relevant to the judicial fees of Dubai Court in order to not contradict the Law of Civil Procedures [iv], or perhaps, to cancel the condition of depositing a security upon submitting the statement of appeal. This would be a good way to avoid any doubt regarding the acceptance of appeals that are registered electronically.