By Rehanna Ramsay
Hundreds of court matters have been expeditiously heard and resolved through mechanisms implemented under the New Civil Procedures Rules (CPR).
The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) of 2016 were brought on stream earlier this year. Laid in the National Assembly in November last, they replaced Guyana’s existing rules, which date back to 1955. The changes have brought the new rules in line with similar systems utilised in the Caribbean.
The 187-page document contains procedures for settling civil matters and making payments both in and out of court.
Under the guidelines brought on stream in February, a number of mechanisms were adapted towards providing speedy hearings, and an end to what would have been lengthy civil trials.
During a recent press briefing, Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George explained that with the implementation of mechanisms such as the Fixed Date Applications, (FDAs), matters filed under the new system are heard expeditiously.
Justice George explained, too, that that new rules are channeling a different mindset among attorneys and litigants alike.
“The cost for filing a matter is much more and the attorneys have the challenge of ensuring their files are in order, because under the CPR (mechanisms) from the time the matter is filed, a date is fixed for the matter to be heard.”
The CJ also stressed that there are not many considerations given for adjournments under the new system. She said that it is therefore imperative that attorneys and litigants make information needed, available, for matters to be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
“It’s about allowing matters to flow through the system as fast as possible.”
The CJ nonetheless noted that these matters were all filed afresh.
“These are all new matters that are filed as Fixed Date Applications (FDAs)…There have been at least 700 of those applications and the cases are almost complete.”
In terms of the old matters that would have contributed to the backlog, the CJ noted that mechanisms are being implemented for those cases to receive much needed attention.
“These old matters will still be assigned to judges; they will not come under the new system.” Justice George said, too, that some of the matters will be placed on the list for dismissal and consideration.
The CJ noted that what happens is that these cases are left in the system; they appear to contribute to the backlog, even after litigants fail to pursue the course of action, making the cases dead weight. She explained that the idea is to “weed out, deadweight cases” that have been abandoned by the attorneys and litigants.
Meanwhile, the CJ stressed that litigants filing through the new system will continue to yield benefits under methods such as the FDAs. Under this method, in accordance with the rules, the court is guided by a timeline to lay out a schedule to have matters heard within days after it is sought.
When a proceeding is to be commenced by way of an FDA, the applicant (person applying to the court) must attach an affidavit of all of the evidence upon which he/she relies, and attach a draft of the order that the Applicant seeks to have the Court make.
According to the rules, where the FDA is made without notice, it need not be served and the Registry must schedule it to be heard within four days of being issued. In the cases of urgent FDAs made on notice, the Registry must schedule it to be heard within seven days of being issued and the application must be served at least four days before the date scheduled for the hearing.”
In any other case, the Registry must schedule it to be heard within 28 days of being issued and the application must be served at least seven days before the date scheduled for the hearing, unless these Rules, a Practice Direction or the Court, otherwise permit.
Additionally at the hearing of a FDA, the Court must proceed to determine the application based on the evidence before it; or if there is insufficient evidence to determine the application on its merits, dismiss the application; or otherwise proceed as if the FDA was commenced by way of Statement of Claim and conduct the hearing as a first Case Management Conference.
According to the CPR 2016, at the hearing of the FDA, in addition to any other powers that the Court may have, the Court may award costs.
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