Jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance

Judiciary Law No. 10 of 2003 was issued and entered into force as of 2 October 2004. The Law unified the Justice and Sharia judicial entities into one authority named the Courts, specifically, the Court of Cassation, the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instanc e, each having jurisdiction to consider and decide upon the matters referred to it under the Law. 

The Court of First Instance consists of a president and an adequate number of chairs and judges. It has circuits to consider cases of Hudod (limits), Qisas (retaliation in kind), Diya (compensation), criminal matters, civil and commercial matters, personal status matters, inheritance, administrative disputes, etc. These circuits are formed by a resolution issued by the Supreme Judiciary Council. Judgments are issued by three members. However, Article 12 of the said Law authorises the Council to form one or more circuits that issue their decisions through a single judge in cases specified under Law. According to the Law of Pleadings, a Court of First Instance formed by three judges is called a “Plenary Court”, while a Court of First Instance formed by a single judge is called a “District Court”.

The Plenary Court is responsible for considering civil and commercial lawsuits and disputes, administrative disputes, lawsuits of unknown value and personal and inheritance claims. It has sole jurisdiction over hearing bankruptcy, composition of bankruptcy, possessory and other actions assigned to it under Law, irrespective of their value. It is also responsible for deciding the appeals referred to it against judgments delivered by the District Court or its summary judge. The District Court has jurisdiction over all civil and commercial lawsuits and disputes. However, Family Law No. 23 of 2006 issued recently, provides for the jurisdiction of one or more circuits of the Court of First Instance and Court of Appeal (called the “Family Court”) over familial and inheritance actions and disputes. This Family Law authorises the Family Court at the Court of First Instance, comprised of a single judge, to decide upon disputes related to family and inheritance as specified by the Supreme Judiciary Council. In its Resolution No. 23 of 2006, the Supreme Judiciary Council specified the family claims and disputes that are considered by a single-judge court of First Instance, naming that court the “Family District Court”, and those family claims and disputes that are considered by a three-judge Court of First Instance, naming it the “Family Plenary Court”.

It is noted that these actions and disputes were included under the general provisions relating to personal status disputes. However, the Family Law set them aside and gave the Family Court the jurisdiction to hear them, while other personal status disputes remain within the jurisdiction of the Plenary Court. It is noteworthy that there are execution judges in the Plenary Court, the District Court, the Plenary Family Court and the District Family Court, and each has the jurisdiction conferred on them by Law to supervise enforcement and decide upon all objective and summary disputes, and to issue decisions and orders related to enforcement. The decisions of the execution judge may be appealed before the competent Court of Appeal. Furthermore, Criminal Procedure Law No. 23 of 2004 designated a three-judge Court of First Instance as the “Criminal Court”, that has jurisdiction over crimes and Hudod (limits), Qisas (retaliation in kind) and Diya (compensation), as well as actions referred to it by the Public Prosecution. It also decides on misdemeanours committed by the press and other crimes specified under Law. According to the Law, a single-judge court of First Instance is named a “Misdemeanour Court”. It has jurisdiction over all misdemeanours and offences referred to it by the Public Prosecution, except misdemeanours committed by the press. Its judgments may be appealed before an appellate body at the three-judge Court of First Instance.