Earlier in 2017, the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government held a public consultation, titled “Setting up of the Civil Court, First Hall, Commercial Section“. This was concluded in July 2017.
While we have not been active in commercial litigation for a relatively long while, we still believe that this is the way forward. Questions included whether there should be a commercial section within the civil arm of the Maltese courts, and whether the remit should be wider than matters related to the Companies Act.
The feedback received applauded the initiative of introducing this section, especially since, in the past, the Maltese judicature included a Commercial Court section which was eventually discontinued. However, in the current litigation climate, it was felt that the introduction of this section would increase in the efficiency of justice being handed down, provided the necessary human and other resources were ensured in order to guarantee success.
Mention was made of the fact that matters falling under the Commercial Code should also be included within the scope of this section’s jurisdiction, as well as other laws such as the Trusts and Trustees Act and other codes that deal with matters of a commercial nature (e.g. banks). Clarification is to be sought as to a clear line of competence of this court in matters that could potentially fall under the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure.
The use of ADR, including pre-trial conferences and/or arbitration or mediation were also suggested as an efficient means to resolve disputes and to provide direction in cases that are deemed to be high-risk.
Online filing and payment of fees is also considered to be worthy of consideration in order to facilitate the filing of claims. Other legislative amendments were suggested in order to ensure that the new Bill respects the provisions outlined in the law.
In late 2017, the Government published its response to the consultation and stated that, subject to Parliamentary approval, it is intended to enact the new legislation in early 2018, with the new Commercial Section commencing operation in the second quarter of 2018.