The following article discusses the concept of contempt of court in relation to family law of the UAE.
What is contempt of court?
Contempt of court is when a person is disobedient or disrespectful towards a court of law. This can include acts such as not obeying court orders, disrupting the court proceedings through display of bad behavior, disclosing confidential information or withdrawing disclosure where it is demanded, abstaining from providing information to the court etc.
When a person is held guilty of contempt of court, the presiding judge may impose a sanction against that person, such as fine or jail time. Proceedings related to contempt of court allow the judges to pass equitable remedies, such as injunctions, against the guilty. However, in civil matters, broadly there are only two ways in which a person may be punished for contempt of court:
- If there is failure on part of a person to attend the court despite being summoned, and
- If there is failure on part of a person to follow an order of the court
What are the major legislations on family law in the UAE?
To understand what amounts to contempt of court in family disputes in the UAE, it is important to note the laws that govern family matters:
- The primary law related to family disputes is Federal Decree-Law No. 28 of 2005, which is the Personal Status Law. This law is applied to the Muslim population of the UAE, irrespective of whether an Emirati or an expatriate.
- The UAE government introduced a new legislation for the non-Muslims in the UAE, that is Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022, which will govern family matters of the non-Muslims, irrespective of whether an Emirati or an expatriate.
- The Federal Law No. 42 of 2022 on the Civil Procedures Law governs civil proceedings before the courts.
- The Abu Dhabi Law No. 14 of 2021 on the Civil Marriage and its Effects in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi applies to non-Muslims living in Abu Dhabi.
Is contempt of court recognized in the UAE?
Federal Decree Law No. 31 of 2021, on the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law lays down several instances that correspond to contempt of court. Although, the term “contempt of court” is not explicitly mentioned, acts such as those of perjury, forging fake documents, delivering false testimonies etc. are punishable by the law.
What are the possible grounds for which one could be held in contempt of court in family disputes?
False oath: Witnesses in family court proceedings play a very important role since their testimonies may shape the entire case. A witness is required to take oath and deliver a clear and impartial testimony without showing bias towards any party. Accordingly, if a witness gives false testimony under oath, or hides or denies information related to material facts of the case, such witness shall be liable to imprisonment for at least 3 months, as per Article 302 of Federal Law No. 31 of 2021.
A person may compel a litigant in a civil case to take oath, or may himself administer false oath. Article 309 mentions imprisonment sentence for such person for a period of almost 2 years, along with fine that may go up to AED 10,000.
Inducing a person: Using threat, or force, or torture, or offering a gift to a person so as to induce that person to hide evidence or give false statement in the court is also punishable by imprisonment and fine, as per Article 308.
Disrespecting the court: Article 311 states that a person who disrespects the judge or members of the public prosecution by way of publicity will be sentenced to prison or be fined, or both.
Influencing the judge: Matters published just to influence the presiding judge in a lawsuit, or the members of the public prosecution, or the people conducting investigation under the lawsuit, or a witness, are acts also viewed as contempt of court. The same is punishable by the law under Article 312 of the Crimes and Penalties Law. It also includes influencing a person to prevent him from disclosing valuable information, or altering public opinion regarding the lawsuit.
Publishing certain matters: Family disputes are not allowed to be openly published in the UAE, under Article 313 of the Crimes and Penalties Law. If news regarding investigations or proceedings of the following is published, the person responsible for the act will be punished as per the law:
- Disclosure of secrets
- Courts’ deliberation
- Information regarding lawsuits that the courts have determined in a closed session or those which have been prohibited from publication
Tampering: Article 327 of the Law punishes a person with imprisonment for maximum 5 years if such person tampers with the documents or important papers which are based on decisions of the judicial authorities. Tampering includes replacement, destruction, unlawful removal or misappropriation of the documents.
The above information might not apply if both parties are non-Muslim. Starting from the 1st of February 2023, UAE issued specific family law to be applied between non-Muslim expat residents in case none of them wanted to apply his/her home country’s law in the UAE. To know more information about this law, please feel free to click this link