Commercial courts have so far disposed-off over 7,000 of the 8,877 cases it received in a period of five months, between May and September, this year according to an official.
Up to 3,333 cases are backlog cases while 5,544 are new cases handled by the commercial courts in the same period.
“All the backlog cases were cleared from the period before the commercial courts started operating. Now we are dealing with new cases,” the Vice President of the Commercial High Court who was recently sworn in, Benoit Gatete, told Business Times in an interview on Tuesday.
Gatete mentioned that “simple” cases are handled in not more than 3 months while complex cases take up to 8 months.
Apart from the Nyamirambo based Commercial High Court, there are three other commercial courts countrywide; in Huye, Musanze, and Nyarugenge.
However, the High Court remains with the highest figure of pending cases at 66 percent or 886 cases of the total 2,048 cases received.
“High court cases are a problem because of appeals and we receive also appeals , this is the reason why we have many cases pending in high court,” Gatete explained.
While the Commercial high court currently handles directly cases with amount of rewarded beginning from Rwf20 million , the Vice President said that discussions are underway to have the figure increased to more than Rwf50 million.
He observed that a section of lawyers is currently exploiting the relatively low figure to pursue cases directly from the high court that would otherwise be handled by lower courts.
“There is a lot of speculation from lawyers – if you claim Rwf5 million, some lawyers will come in and say there is moral damage about Rwf16 million.We have to get a new law to do away with the speculation,” Gatete said.
Nyarugenge Commercial Court, which pioneered the hearing of commercial disputes, handled 4,022 or 93 percent of the 4342 cases received; Huye handled 95 percent or 1,304 of the 1,377 cases received ,while Musanze handled 94 percent or 1,047 cases of the 1,110 cases received in the period under review.
Each of the three courts, has a territorial jurisdiction that covers about 10 districts.
Gatete also revealed that 80 percent of the cases settled come from banks related to Overdrafts, letter of credit and loans for construction purposes.
However the Vice president also observed that existing gaps within the operations of some banks pose a big challenge for the Commercial high court.
Most banks, he explained, wait for interest rates to pile before they seek legal redress.
As a result, Gatete said there is a lobby for a law that will make it mandatory for the banks to bring a case to court if the loan/ credit is not performing for a specific period of time.
“This is a big challenge for us – interest rates continue to accumulate rising to even Rwf20million. The law will push bankers to court to avoid interest rates accumulating,” he said.
Gatete also said financial institutions will be given high priority next year during operations of the court.
“Some cases are very sensitive; they need to collect the money very quickly and give out other loans. This is important for injection of liquidity in the economy.”
Other cases handled by the court are related to taxes,insurance,transport and business body, Rwanda Revenue Authority, insurance cases, transport and few merchant cases.