Civil courts are competent to decide on all civil matters

A Court has held that the First Hall of the Civil Court is competent to decide on all civil matters that are raised before it, unless expressly excluded by law

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Malcolm Mifsud
27 January 2017, 9:00am
The Court moved to dismiss these pleas
The Court moved to dismiss these pleas
The First Hall of the Civil Court is competent to decide on all civil matters that are raised before it, unless expressly excluded by law. This was held by Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti on 16 January, 2017 in Emanuel and Carmen Falzon v Rita Dalmas.

The Falzons had filed a sworn application in which they told the Court that the Rent Regulation Board had issued a warrant of prohibitory injunction in favour of Dalmas to desist from removing equipment at a petrol station in St Julian's. In those proceedings Dalmas had explained that according to the lease agreement of 1987, upon termination of the lease all permits had to be transferred to Ms Dalmas. In November 2015 the Board decided that the lease was terminated and Falzon was to vacate the premises. Dalmas noticed that the Falzons were removing equipment from the petrol stations which meant that they were to transfer the petrol station licence to another site.  Furthermore they applied for a Planning Authority permit to transfer their operations.

The Falzons replied that the Rent Regulation Board is not competent to issue such a warrant because it is not a Court. The Falzons also held that there is no prima facie right to issue a warrant of prohibitory injunction and also lacked the element of irremediable prejudice.

The Board did issue the warrant by means of a decree on 13 July, 2016. The Falzons challenged this decree on the ground that the Board did not consider all the issues which were raised.

The Falzons asked the Court to declare that the Board’s decree to issue the warrant of prohibitory injunction is null and void.

Dalmas in her statements of defence held that the Court is not competent to annul a decree issue by the Rent Regulation Board and that the plaintiff’s demands are vague. Furthermore, this action was unsustainable because it should have taken the form of an application of a counter warrant in terms of Article 836 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure. Other pleas dealt with the merits of the case.

Mr Justice Chetcuti dealt with the first plea, that of lack of competence to annul a decree issued by the Rent Regulation Board. Art. 836(1) of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure gives the right against whom a warrant is issued to file an application for its revocation before the Court that issued the warrant. However, the article starts off “Without prejudice to any other right under this or any other law…”. The Court pointed out that Article 32(2) of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure gives the civil Court full competence and without limitation to hear and decide cases of a civil nature. Consideration also has to be given to the fact that if a law excludes the competence of the civil courts, then the court will not be competent. However, Article 836(1) does not exclude the party subject to a warrant to apply to the civil courts and seek a remedy as the revocation of a precautionary warrant. Therefore, the Court turned down this plea.

As to whether the plaintiff filed the application before the correct court, Mr Justice Chetcuti held that the action is not based on Article 836 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure, but on the general action that the Court has the authority to revoke a decree. This is explained in detail in the sworn application which was filed.

The Court then moved to dismiss these pleas.

Dr Malcolm Mifsud, Partner, Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates

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Malcolm Mifsud is a partner at Mifsud & Associates.