Knowing and understanding the UAE Court system: a comparison of the legal civil procedures between the DIFC and Dubai Courts’ systems

November 9, 2020

Introduction Over the past 14 years, Dubai has embraced both civil and common law legal systems within its borders. In order to understand the concepts involved I have set out below the fundamentals of each system ending with a comparative look at the two systems as they are currently in use at this time. Dubai Courts The UAE is a Federated State consisting of seven Emirates being Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. The UAE came into being as an independent Federated State on 2 December 1971 following Britain’s withdrawal from the Trucial States which had been set up as an informal British Protectorate between 1820 and 1892.  Initially Ras Al Khaimah was not part of the UAE but joined as the seventh Emirate on 10 February 1972. Under the constitution of the UAE the emirates are entitled to have both local and federal Courts with the UAE Supreme Court being established in Abu Dhabi. However, it should be noted that the legal systems in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) do not answer to the UAE Supreme Court as they maintain their own local judicial systems which are independent of the federal Court system. Accordingly, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and RAK have their own Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal and Courts of Cassation. There are however matters that can only be dealt with by the UAE Supreme Court and which the separate Court systems of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and RAK cannot consider. These are: disputes between member Emirates or between any one or more Emirate and the Federal Government; constitutionality of the federal laws and the constitutional legality of legislation enacted by local Emirates if they are challenged by the federal laws or the Constitution; examination of the constitutional legality of laws if such a request is referred by any state Court; constitutional interpretations if requested by a federal entity or any Emirate; interrogation of Ministers and senior federal officials on the basis of a request by the Federal Supreme Council; crimes directly affecting the interests of the federation; such as crimes relating to internal or external security, forgery of the official records or seals; conflict of jurisdiction between federal judicial authorities and the local judicial authorities; and conflict of jurisdiction between the judicial authority in one Emirate and the judicial authority in another Emirate and the classification of the principles relating to it in a federal law Dubai Court of First Instance  The Court of First Instance is itself divided into Minor and Major Circuits where if the value of a claim is AED 10,000,000 or less it may be decided by a single judge in the Minor Circuit. Claims over AED 10,000,000 are decided by three judges in the Major Circuit although the Major Circuit may hear claim for less than AED 10,000,000 if the Court considers that they are complex. However, it should be noted that a minor circuit may be mandated by decision of the Minister of Justice or head of the local competent judicial authority to hear and dispose of cases […]

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