Dubai Plans to Set Up a Judicial Body to Resolve Jurisdictional Conflicts in UAE



The Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, has signed a decree that will replace the previous tribunal with a whole new team with a broader mandate. Moreover, Dubai, with this new authority team, will resolve all the jurisdictional conflicts happening between Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts and domestic courts. All previous laws that may have been conflicting with Decree No. 29 of 2024 are superseded; in particular, Dubai Law No. 19/2016 is replaced. It is currently in force as of April 17, 2024, when it was published in the Official Gazette

Short Background

To settle disputes over jurisdictions between the independent DIFC Courts—English-language common law courts situated in the Dubai International Financial Centre—and the onshore Dubai Courts—Arabic-language civil law courts—Decree No. 19 of 2016 established the “Judicial Tribunal for Dubai Courts and DIFC Courts.” As of right now, Decree No. 29 of 2024 has taken the place of Decree No. 19 of 2016.

When identical proceedings are started by the same parties in both the onshore Dubai Courts and the offshore DIFC Courts, jurisdictional disputes between the two courts may result. One fine example to explain this is that a party may respond by launching parallel legal actions against the other party in the onshore Dubai Courts if it receives a claim that has been filed against it in the DIFC Courts but challenges the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts. The Judicial Tribunal would decide if there was a conflict of jurisdiction between the two courts in these situations.

What New Things to Expect?

This new body will be headed by the President of the Court of Cassation at Dubai Courts, while the deputy chief justice of DIFC Courts will be serving as deputy chairman. 

Byron James, partner at the UAE Law firm Expatriate Law, mentioned that it is “a calculated action to improve the legal system’s effectiveness and resolve any possible jurisdictional conflicts or overlaps between these courts.

This modification emphasizes how crucial it is to have a specialized entity to swiftly handle and settle jurisdictional disputes that may result from Dubai’s particular dual-court system, in which the DIFC Courts apply a common law framework that is different from the civil law system that the rest of the Dubai judicial system uses.”

According to a statement from the Dubai Media Office, the authority would decide which court is appropriate for disputes, identify enforceable judgments in case of conflicts, and carry out assignments from the Chairman of the Dubai Judicial Council or the Ruler of Dubai. It further stated that the authority’s decisions are final and cannot be challenged in any way.

Dubai Plans to Set Up a Judicial Body to Resolve Jurisdictional Conflicts in UAE

Duties and Power of the Judicial Authority

(i) Identify the appropriate Judicial Body to hear any case or allegation that might give rise to a conflict of jurisdiction between the DIFC Courts and another Judicial Body.

(ii) Choose which rulings, in cases of contradictory rulings between the DIFC Courts and other Judicial Bodies on cases involving the same litigants and the same dispute issue, would be carried out.

(iii) Any additional responsibilities or authority that the Chairman of the Dubai Judicial Council or the Dubai Ruler may delegate to it.

How do Jurisdictional issues occur?

According to Mr. James, issues involving parties or contracts with ties to the DIFC and the rest of Dubai may frequently result in jurisdictional disputes.

It may result in confusion about which court has the jurisdiction to consider a particular matter. For instance, jurisdiction issues might have arisen in a contract dispute if one party was based in the DIFC and the other in Dubai.

This new decree aims to bring down such jurisdictional confusion and give authorities the right to decide which court suits perfectly and works effectively. 

For whom this new Decree is Relevant?

The “Judicial Authority of Dubai Courts and DIFC Courts,” established by Dubai Decree No. 19/2016, is subject to Decree No. 29 of 2024. It will mainly be pertinent to litigants who find themselves in a dispute of jurisdiction between the DIFC Courts and the onshore Dubai courts or who are presently involved in a matter under consideration by the Judicial Tribunal.

In cases where the DIFC Courts and any of the Judicial Bodies have conflicting jurisdiction or where the Courts have rendered contradictory judgments, the litigants may ask the Judicial Authority to identify which Judicial Body is most appropriate to consider their lawsuit, claim, or enforceable judgment.

This new decree will give business parties operating in Dubai peace of mind with the assurance that the Emirate is still dedicated to providing parties with the option of choosing between the English-speaking Dubai Common Law Courts and the Arabic-speaking Dubai Civil Law Courts to settle their commercial disputes.

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