It is now common knowledge that after January 2, 2022, issuing a cheque that is dishonoured for the lack of funds is no longer going to be a criminal offence in the UAE (for a primer on the changes made to the law, click here). But what of ongoing complaints and criminal cases regarding cheques that were dishonoured prior to January 2? Circular No. (9) of 2021, issued by the Dubai Public Prosecution Department on 19 December 2021, helpfully clarifies how such cases are to be handled.
Where the case is at the stage of a criminal complaint filed at a Dubai Police station: The police are required to dismiss the complaint and cancel any police orders (including travel bans) issued with respect to the complaint.
Where the case is at the stage of an investigation before the Dubai Public Prosecution: The prosecutor is required to administratively dismiss the case if the investigation procedures are yet to be commenced, or issue a decision to reject the case if the investigations have commenced, travel bans are to be revoked, and the files are to be closed.
Where the case is pending before the Dubai Court of First Instance: The prosecutor handling the matter is required to apply for the acquittal of the defendant.
Where the case is pending before the Dubai Court of Appeal or the Court of Cassation following a judgment convicting the defendant: The prosecutor handling the matter is required to apply for cancellation of the appealed judgment and seek an order acquitting the defendant.
Where a final judgment convicting the defendant has been issued: The Execution Division of the Dubai Court is required (in consultation with the Public Prosecutor’s department) to put in place a mechanism to cancel enforcement of the judgment, including cancelling orders for the arrest of the defendant and travel ban orders.
It is interesting to note that although Federal Decree No. 14 of 2020 (which decriminalised the act of issuing a cheque which is dishonoured for lack of funds) does not have retrospective application, the effect of Circular No.9 is to give it retrospective application. It is important to remember that not all cheque-related crimes have been decriminalised, and the Circular makes it clear that the remaining offences will continue to be prosecuted. It should be noted that Circular No. 9 only applies in the Emirate of Dubai. ■