A new one-day court initiative launched in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to speed up the judicial process and ensure straightforward cases are dealt with as quickly as possible.
The one-day court began as a pilot last April and has already ruled on 2,443 criminal and misdemeanor cases, 65 labour cases and 205 civil and personal disputes.
A specialised judge in each Abu Dhabi court will now receive one-day court cases allocated by the public prosecution. In Al Ain and the Western Region, all judges are able to rule on cases that have been classified as one-day court material during regular hearings.
Eligible cases range from tourist offences to cross dressing, fights and civil disputes to traffic offences. It was also cover inheritance, delivering a child to his or her custodian, lifting a travel ban, municipality offences, immigration violations, bounced cheques and illegal alcohol consumption and possession.
Head of judicial inspection at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, Ali Al Shaer, said the trial period allowed the department to test the efficiency of the project and refine the rules.
"The one-day labour court started looking at disputes with claims of up to Dh20,000, but then we discovered the [time] issue was not related to the amount of money, but the readiness of details and the case procedures."
A major challenge, he said, was with civil cases because they cannot be processed until the other side has been served, or notified.
"Once he or she is served, even if they don't attend we can proceed with the case. But if they have not been served, the ruling would be invalid."
Mohammed Al Shibli, head of the prosecutions department at ADJD, said it is essential that the judicial process for certain types of cases is sped up and hence that they are referred to the one-day court.
An important example, he said, is for cases involving tourists: "The tourist stays in the country for a limited period of time, and therefore it is important to resolve their cases quickly."
The new one-day court also aims to reduce the effort and money spent on imprisoning defendants in straightforward cases – cases where all the necessary factors, evidence and details are ready to be presented and that don't require further investigations or expert reports.
"Imprisoning defendants in such cases for a long time [while they await trial] is an unnecessary financial and security burden," Mr Al Shibli said.
Benjimin Burgher, a legal consultant at ADJD, said labour courts heard 9,828 minor cases – claims for amounts that are less than Dh500,000 – last year. This year, he expects between 2,000 and 3,000 of them to be heard at the one-day court.
The ADJD initiative follows a similar move by RAK courts last February, which introduced the country’s first one-day courts handling civil and commercial cases that involve claims of up to Dh20,000.
Dubai courts followed a month later by introducing the one-day misdemeanor court, with one judge settling 6,000 cases in just over seven weeks.
Mr Al Shibli said Abu Dhabi's initiative is, however, more inclusive because it is in the form of a “one-day judicial system” and is not limited to specific courts or cases.