Photo used for illustrative purpose.
The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts on Tuesday released its figures for the first six months of 2022, reaffirming increased efficiency of process for businesses engaged with the region’s prime jurisdiction for dispute resolution.
The volume of cases across all Divisions recorded a 10% increase in the first half of 2022, compared with the first six months of 2021, with a total value of Dhs1.9 billion.
In the main Court of First Instance (CFI), 44 cases were filed, with the total value of AED1.87 billion and an average case value of AED53.3 million. Cases within the Arbitration Division under the CFI also recorded an increase in the first six months of 2022, with a total value of AED1 billion and an average claim value of AED130 million.
Claims brought before the CFI covered a range of sectors including banking and finance, real estate, manufacturing, retail, and hospitality, and involving disputes related to breach of contract, outstanding payments, Wills & Probate, and employment. There was also a noticeable number of ‘opt-in’ cases for the first six months of 2022, with 50% of claims in the CFI cases originating from parties ‘electing’ to use the DIFC Courts to resolve their disputes.
The operational capacity of the region’s first Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) was strong in the first six months of 2022, with 263 claims filed, an increase of 31% year-on-year and an overall claim value totaling AED23.8 million, a 16% increase for the same period in 2021.
Claims were driven primarily by disputes involving breach of contract, employment, banking & finance, and property & tenancy. Increased remote virtual hearings through the region’s first “Smart SCT” virtual court, has led to over 62% of claims registered originating from parties selecting the SCT as their preferred method for dispute resolution.
Reinforcing the paperless mission of the DIFC Courts, over 650 digital Orders were issued in the first six months of 2022, and a further 66 Judgments issued for the same period. Justice Omar Al Mheiri, Director of DIFC Courts, said, “The DIFC Courts has entered 2022 with clear intent and purpose; with the approval of His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and President of the Dubai International Financial Centre, the new DIFC Courts Strategic Work Plan, 2022 – 2025, is in full effect.
Encapsulated within a four-pillar mandate, the upgraded strategy outlines an ambitious drive for full digital transformation through advanced technologies to increase the efficiency of dispute resolution. A new hyperconnected judicial network will also be developed alongside cutting-edge legal procedures and specialised Rules for enhanced accessibility to court services.”
The latest Work Plan of the DIFC Courts also prescribes the replacement of outdated processes with end-to-end digital technology, ensuring court systems are smart, user-friendly and agile enough to keep pace with global commerce. Innovative implementations will bridge barriers of language, borders, jurisdiction and currency. For example, AI will reduce clerical burdens, help streamline the case review methodology, create a realistic virtual presence, remove document duplications, and unlock time to take on significantly more complex tasks.
In early 2022, the new Digital Economy Court assigned a group of international lawyers and industry experts to draft and approve new specialised rules for the Digital Economy Division, which have also undergone a 30-day public consultation campaign. Leading international judicial expertise is also being finalised to oversee and operate the new Court’s advanced digital infrastructure and service capabilities, with further updates on this front scheduled for the coming months.
In the first six months of 2022, Phase II of the Court Tech Lab initiative was launched, with the project R&D programme launched to position Dubai as the city that pioneers new industry-specific technologies.
Phase II involved a prototyping stage for two finalists, where they received financial support, as well as access to the DIFC Courts to research, test and adapt the technology solution. The finalists were FaceKi from Bahrain and CourtCorrect from the UK, who provided solutions to their assigned challenge.
Future research from the DIFC Courts will combine expertise and resources to investigate handling disputes arising out of private and public blockchains, with regulation and contractual terms encoded within the smart contract. Implications for cross-border data flows, digital and data governance, and ensuring protection and security of information for the business relationships that help drive the digital economy, are now being reviewed with accelerated intent.