Coronavirus – Litigation during lockdown
02 Apr 2020
Litigation can continue during lockdown – subject to certain provisions contained in the directions (“the Directions”) published by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, in Government Gazette – No 11066 on 26 March 2020, under the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 (“the Act”).
The Directions apply to all courts, court precincts and justice service points in South Africa and the Minister has provided that heads of court, (including the High Courts and Magistrate’s Courts) may make their own Directions based on the court’s facilities and requirements, for example, having matters heard via teleconference or video conference.
The Directions have the following impact on both current and potential litigious matters:
1. Access to the courts, court precincts and justice service points are restricted to only essential and urgent matters, which include:
1.1. Service and execution of court orders relating to Covid-19;
1.2. Service of domestic violence protection orders;
1.3. Service of protection from harassment orders;
1.4. Service of process relating to claims prescribing (these are claims that arose almost three years ago);
1.5. Service of urgent court process relating to court hearings scheduled during lockdown;
1.6. Service of urgent court process in family law matters as determined in the directions; and
1.7. Service and execution of other process as directed by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the South African Board for Sheriffs or Heads of Courts.
2. All eviction, execution of attachment orders and sales in execution are suspended with immediate effect for duration of lockdown.
3. All cases which are not urgent or essential shall not be placed on the court roll, unless the head of a court makes provision for authorising the hearing of matters via teleconference or video conference
4. Matters already set down on the court roll during the lockdown period will be removed and postponed to a later date (after the lockdown period). The chief registrar or clerk of the court must inform the parties of the new court date, in writing. We will advise our clients of the new dates on which their matters are set down.
5. All time limits imposed by the rules of court, including for the service and filing of court documents, shall be suspended and shall recommence after the termination or lapsing of the period of the National State of Disaster.
Notwithstanding the above, our offices are operating normally, with our litigation department working remotely from home. Should you require access to the courts for an urgent or essential matter, please contact us for assistance.
See also:(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)