Laws Bill proposes raft of measures

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COMPANIES and other juristic persons will now be allowed to sue individuals at the Small Claims Court and may elect to be represented by a lawyer of their choice if the proposed Judicial Laws Amendment Bill is passed without changes.

BY STAFF REPORTER

The provisions are contained in the recently gazetted draft bill that seeks to amend the High Court Act, the Magistrates Courts Act and the Small Claims Courts Act, with a view to facilitating the settlement of commercial disputes.

In the Small Claims Court Act section 6 of the principal Act now reads: “Any natural or juristic person may institute proceedings in a Small Claims Court. A party to any proceedings in a Small Claims Court may appear in person or be represented or assisted by a legal practitioner.

“Originally legal practitioners were not permitted to represent parties before a Small Claims Court, but because section 69(4) of the Constitution gives a right to every one, at their own expense, to choose and be represented by a legal practitioner before any court, tribunal or forum.”

Further to this, all magistrates’ courts will now be allowed to hear small claims cases.

However, lawyers who act for litigants in the Small Claims Court are not allowed to seek costs from the losing party.

“Provided that the legal practitioner shall not recover any costs as between legal practitioner and client exceeding the amount of the costs, which the legal practitioner would have recovered had he or she instituted the proceedings in a magistrates’ court,” the Bill adds.

Meanwhile, the draft also seeks the establishment of specialised courts that the Chief Justice may decide for the speedy resolution of cases.

“Specialised divisions of the High Court may be created to specialise in the adjudication of cases in the field of commercial law, family law, mining law, electoral law, revenue law, the law of deceased and insolvent estates or any other specialised field of law,” the Draft Bill says.