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Dubai’s cheque law: Should it be changed?
A new court opened this week to deal specifically with cheque crime. Once again it has prompted calls for Dubai’s stringent cheque law to be changed.
August 24, 2010 12:11 by Samuel Potter
Should the law in Dubai governing the use of cheques be overhauled? That’s the major question doing the rounds of Dubai media this week, after a new court circuit opened in Dubai to handle the large number of cases related to bad cheques.
According to Judge Ahmed Saif, chief justice of the Dubai Criminal Courts, more than 100 cases are heard during the after hours weekly sessions, which cover both personal and commercial defaulters. The National reports that the new system “has sparked renewed calls for changes to the law,” with advocates for change saying offenders should be fined and not jailed.
“People have to sign blank cheques to rent, borrow, purchase and do business in Dubai. If conditions make it the only method of [doing] business, the courts must not criminalise non-payment,” criminal lawyer Harun Tahlak told the paper.
“Article 401 of the UAE penal code needs to be changed or dropped,” he said. “Article 401 states that one who defaults on a cheque with criminal intention can be jailed or fined. But the courts routinely sentence people to jail.” He advocated arbitration or civil court proceedings. Such a move would surely lessen the burden on the criminal system.
But Judge Saif responded: “A cheque is protected by criminal law because it is viewed as a bond. A criminal judge is not concerned about what circumstances the cheque was issued under. It is not for him to review this – the judgement is made based solely on the fact that you have presented a bond which was not honoured.”
Emirati lawyer Ali Musabah said, “The court rarely issues fines in cheque cases and when it does, it does so under very tight conditions,” he said. “I believe the courts should issue fines for first-time offenders [owing] small amounts. If a person was unable to repay his credit card or bank loan for good reason, he should be fined not jailed.”
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