Lower courts are set to hear more civil matters than ever before after the Magistrate’s Court Amendment Bill was tabled in parliament last week.
The Bill proposes an increase in jurisdiction of the lower courts to now deal with civil matters dealing with movable and immovable properties with a value of up to N$1 million.
Previously the courts could only hear suits that are below the value of N$25 000. According to justice minister Yvonne Dausab, this includes cases in which the delivery or transfer of any movable or immovable property is claimed, actions of ejectment against the occupier of any premises or land, where the right of occupation is an issue and in cases arising out of a liquid document or a mortgage bond.
It will also include cases where suits arise out of any credit agreement. “The increase in the monetary jurisdiction of the magistrate’s courts is necessitated by the need to enhance access to the courts for many more of our Namibian citizens in civil cases.
This has the potential of decongesting the caseload in the higher courts and to alleviate the cost impact on litigants as it is less costly to litigate in the lower courts,” explained Dausab.
The increase of monetary jurisdiction of the lower courts will enhance access to justice, said Dausab. The Bill further proposes an increase in jurisdiction from N$25 000 to N$500 000 for any other case that the lower courts may be dealing with, impose restrictions on the sale of immovable properties and deal with incidental matters.
“Section 66A will restrict the sale of immovable property in execution of a court judgement unless the court is satisfied that a judgment debtor has insufficient movable property to satisfy the judgement debt upon return of service of process by the messenger of the court or unless it has declared the immovable property to be executable upon the application of the judgment creditor,” clarified the minister.
This process, Dausab said, will give time for investigations to determine whether the parties can find other solutions and that the sale of primary immovable property is the last resort. The minister cautioned that the amendment will not apply if the immovable property to be sold in execution is subject to a mortgage bond registered in favour of the judgment creditor and in cases where the judgment debtor has failed to satisfy the mortgage bond in full or in part.