DUBAI // The Dubai Courts caseload has increased by 60 per cent since 2008, according to a report released this week - but so far this year the number of criminal and civil cases has declined.
The increase in litigation reflected the effects of the economic downturn, officials said.
Criminal cases went from 32,702 in 2008 to 46,160 last year, a 41 per cent increase, the report said. The number of civil cases, which include Real Estate Court and Labour Court litigations reviewed last year was 59,833, compared with 33,558 in 2008.
According to the 2010 annual report, the majority of cases were registered from the second quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of last year.
"These figures reflect the public's impulse of filing grievances against employers, tenants, investors or defaulters," said Ameera Mohammed, a UK-based analyst.
In the first half of 2010, there were 35,723 civil and criminal cases, but that dropped to 27,253 cases in the second half of the year.
"We have seen a further drop in the first quarter of 2011 by 11 per cent," said Yousif al Suwaidi, the director of strategic planning at Dubai Courts.
Thirteen per cent of all judgments last year were overturned on appeal, the report showed, including 36 per cent of cases from the Courts of First Instance and 31 per cent from the Court of Appeal.
And people are waiting at least a week longer to have their cases heard.
The average time it takes for a case to reach the courtroom after registration increased from 14 days in 2008 to 23 days in 2010, the report said, reflecting the higher volume of cases.
At the appeals court, the waiting period was 30 days last year, up from 23 days in 2008, and at the Court of Cassation, the highest court, the waiting time went to 79 days from 72 days.
Eighty-two per cent of cases in 2010 were cleared within the year, the report said.
That figure included a drastic drop in the clearance rate for criminal cases, 96 per cent of which were cleared in 2008 compared with just 80 per cent last year.
"The increase in cheque cases and financial crimes have pushed for the courts to strategically tackle this influx, therefore reducing the clearance ratio," Mr al Suwaidi said.
Introduction of new specialised courts since 2007 had helped with caseload management, he said.
Labour and real estate courts were placed under the civil courts in 2007 and 2008, and the introduction of a Human Trafficking Court, Family Court and a Circuit dedicated to bounced cheques last year were aimed at easing case flow and speeding up the judicial process.
The director general of Dubai Courts, Dr Ahmed bin Hazim, said the courts were addressing the increases by expanding and hiring more personnel.
"Our administrative structure, introduction and development of new technology and qualified personnel and human resources helped us in managing the increased caseloads," he said.
Eight Emirati judges, including one woman, as well as 14 new judges from Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan, were sworn in last year at the Criminal Courts.
The Dubai Courts have three female judges and are pushing for more women to go into the judiciary, according to the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court, Judge Ahmed Saif.
The court complex was expanded last year at a cost of Dh16.4 million.