Start Of Commercial Courts In Saudi Arabia After 10 Years Of Delay!
Arab News announced on Tuesday that Saudi Justice Minister Walid Al-Samaani has officially launched commercial courts. These courts had been operating officially since mid-September. In his speech at the inaugural ceremony, Al-Samaani said that the role of the three commercial courts in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam is to enhance the business environment. Encouraging investment and boosting economic development will achieve this. All in line with Saudi Vision 2030 objectives. The new measures will uphold the rights of people and ensure healthy business environment.
The engine behind the setting up of the commercial court is a tripartite working group. Including the Supreme Judicial Council, the Ministry of Justice and the Board of Grievances. Which has worked for the past 10 years to transfer the commercial cases from the Administrative Court, also known as the Board of Grievances, to the Ministry of Justice.
Using technology for a swift process
The Commercial Courts are already functioning at high-tech levels, based on the concept of a “paperless court”. This will eventually cut down around 45% of procedures. And also shorten the period for execution of judicial orders from two months to 72 hours. An e-link has been activated with 19 government agencies to provide around 60 e-services to clients.
Since 1988, commercial disputes in Saudi Arabia had been under the jurisdiction of the Board of Grievances. A Royal Decree of 2007 established the Commercial Court within the general courts’ structure. But the transfer of commercial cases from the Board of Grievances to the Commercial Court took 10 years to implement.
The judges who were in charge of commercial cases before the Board of Grievances are still the same who are assigned to the Commercial Court, to ensure continuity. The transfer has gone smoothly, with no interruption of services to litigants.
What’s in a name? Only time will tell
At present, bringing a commercial case to judgment takes about two years from the beginning of proceedings. In Saudi Arabian courts, there are no pre-trial procedures, like the exchange of pleadings or discovery of documents. The time of getting a judgment is similar to that in developed countries. Proceedings before the Commercial Court take place in a series of short hearings. Usually with intervals of one to two months between hearings. At the hearings, the parties’ lawyers file written submissions and the evidence on which they rely. Witness evidence in commercial cases is rare, and the cases proceed mostly on the basis of documentary evidence.
What remains unclear is how the function of an entity will boost business climate just because it changed its name? Was the name “Board of Grievances” too dull? Maybe some investors and business people were unsure whether a court applying Shari’a law, with judges from Central Arabia, would grant justice to “infidels”. In fact, the judges of the Board of Grievances were known to be impartial in disputes between Saudis and foreigners. Maybe the new name will have a positive effect as a marketing tool for Saudi Vision 2030. It is not as heavy as “Board of Grievances” and makes more sense.