The Bahrain court procedural rules and regulations are being updated as we move forward in dealing with the unprecedented impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the necessity to reduce mass gatherings.
The Bahrain Courts was a system primarily based on physical presence and attendance whether it was to register cases and appeals, to follow-up on the status of proceedings, to pay court or expert fees, to attend hearings, to make or receive written submissions, or to hear, receive and execute judgments. However, as a result of the restrictions being imposed by both public authorities and private entities to combat and limit the spread of COVID-19, the Bahrain Courts, through the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Awqaf (the MOJ) and the Supreme Judicial Council, have been busy issuing Orders and Resolutions to ensure that smooth and continued operations of the Bahrain justice system, while also ensuring the health and safety of its employees, and of the litigants, lawyers and other persons attending the Court premises.
As a result, several Legislative Decrees and Resolutions were published to amend existing laws and regulations that are aimed to enable litigants and lawyers to raise cases, make submissions and receive notifications electronically. These changes shall apply to:
- Criminal investigations carried out by the Public Prosecution and procedures before the Criminal Courts, pursuant to Legislative Decree No. 7 of 2020, amending the Criminal Procedures Law of 2002;
- Appeals to the Court of Appeals and the Court of Cassation related to Judgments issued in civil, commercial, labour or non-Muslim personal status matters, pursuant to Resolution No. 46 of 2020;
- Leasing disputes heard before the Rent Disputes Committee, pursuant to Resolution No. 47 of 2020;
- Labour claims and disputes, pursuant to Resolution No. 5 of 2020.
These changes came as a part of the Bahrain Court’s longstanding initiative to move towards a more electronically based system following the MOJ’s adoption of electronic dealing, pursuant to Resolution No. 127 of 2019 concerning the Acceptance and Scope of Electronic Dealing.
In particular, the acceptance and scope of electronic dealings shall apply to:
“All procedures for filing a case, paying its fees, managing and considering it including judicial notifications, letters, submission of requests, defenses, evidence, exchange of submissions, requests for evidence procedures, joinder and proceeding against third parties, incidental requests, precautionary procedures, records, decisions and judgments issued by courts of various types, degrees, and appeal, and procedures for executing judgments, and challenging them; these procedures include submitting and recording execution requests, and notifications of judicial announcements, decisions and judgment issued by the execution judge.” (Article (3)(a) of Resolution No. 127 of 2019).
The Courts and Cases Services available on wwww.bahrain.bh has previously enabled authorized individuals, lawyers and government employees to access case details and notifications. However, pursuant to these recent changes, parties are now given the choice to raise certain types of cases, to pay court fees, to submit requests and documents, to raise appeals and to hear Judgments by using the approved electronic channels.
Also, Resolution No. 89 of 2018 concerning the Regulation of Notification by Electronic Channels, as amended, enables the use of e-mails and SMS text messages for the purposes of notifying litigating parties of civil, commercial, criminal and shariah cases. Any notice given by the Court Directorate via the approved electronic channels and in accordance with Resolution No. 89 of 2018 shall have the same effect as at the date of notice to the recipient.
The MOJ should be commended for its promotion and development of these electronic services which have come at an important time to take into account the importance of social distancing and limiting public gatherings amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Our team of lawyers regularly advises on all aspects of Bahrain law. Please do not hesitate to contact us for any legal assistance with relating to the COVID-19 pandemic or otherwise.