On Sunday, Abu Dhabi announced a new fast-track court would be set up to handle financial disputes involving claims of less than Dh500,000 ($136,145).
It was established on the orders of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and will expedite minor cases.
But how will it work? The National explains.
What cases will be handled by the court?
It will handle labour disputes, cases over unpaid wages, commercial and civil disputes involving sums less than Dh500,000.
Such cases will be registered with Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, before being assessed and referred to the fast-track court.
How can I file a case at the new court?
The plaintiff can either complete an online form or file a case at a designated desk in court. The forms can be completed in languages spoken widely in the UAE, including Arabic, English, Urdu, Italian and French.
Once the case is taken to the fast-track court, it has up to 15 days to hold a hearing, when a ruling will be made.
During this time, a case-preparation department supervised by a judge will study the case and evidence, listen to witnesses, if needed, and ensure everything is ready by the time the case is heard.
Previously, such procedures took place during trial hearings, sometimes leading to adjournments.
In many instances, lawyers attended hearings without having information about the case. They would ask for an adjournment so they could study the case files and prepare their arguments.
Judges also sometimes adjourned because certain documents or other evidence had not been submitted.
But the new procedures mean this will no longer be the case. Judges must ensure that the case is ready to be ruled on in a single hearing.
Is an extension possible?
A 15-day extension is permissible if there is evidence to show a delay is necessary.
Nasser Al Shamsi, a lawyer in Abu Dhabi, said a single-hearing court would expedite proceedings.
He said his only concern was whether "a single hearing is enough for the judge to be completely aware of the case, witnesses' testimonials and evidence before passing his judgment".
“But if all of those elements will be covered during the case-preparation phase, then I think it will be all for the best,” he said.
Can a verdict be appealed?
Yes, but only if the disputed amount is between Dh50,000 and Dh500,000. Such cases are taken to an appeals department within the fast-track court.
The ruling is final when claims are less than Dh50,000.
Can I defend my case in court?
Yes. Like any court in Abu Dhabi, the fast-track court allows a person to fight his case even if they are not a lawyer. But a translator may be required because all proceedings are in Arabic.
How different is it from one-day courts?
One-day courts in the emirate handle minor labour disputes. The new fast-track court is a separate entity and will handle various types of cases.