The Rent Control Court being a special court with specific jurisdiction, tries cases following a summary procedure for the purpose of speedily and effectively dispensing justice. The court has the right to ask witnesses questions to carry out necessary inquiries to resolve a dispute and it can call or recall a witness at any stage of the proceedings to complete its inquiry.
The Rent Control Rules regulate the procedure and where there is no provision in the Law or the Rules, the Courts Law and the Civil Procedures Law are applied mutatis mutandis with the necessary adjustments. The Rent Control Court issued a number of summary judgments in applications of landlords against statutory tenants owing rents in arrear to prevent abuse of the process by the tenants who filed an appearance or a defence for delay purposes, keeping possession of the premises without paying rents due.
Furthermore, the court issued eviction orders against the tenants. However, an issue was raised before the Supreme Court as to whether the Rent Control Court has jurisdiction to issue summary judgments, both for procedural and substantial reasons.
In particular, the Supreme Court examined the issue in a judgment dated 23.3.2017 whereby it was held that the above legal issue could be raised even at the final stage of the written addresses, since it raises an issue of jurisdiction of the court, which is of public order. It added that the purpose of the procedure for a summary judgment is speed, contrary to the procedural steps followed in a usual trial.
However, the court emphasised that, under the Rent Control Law, speed is one of the main characteristics which differentiates the court from the civil courts, for which the Rules provide the procedure for issuing a summary judgment. The fundamental provision in the Rent Control Law is the one establishing the Rent Control Court having jurisdiction to try and resolve disputes with reasonable speed. In order to achieve this, given the limited frame of jurisdiction, the Law provides for summary trials stating that the court is not bound by the applicable evidence law.
The Rent Control Court has a wider and different role, since it has the right to ask questions of witnesses in order to conduct the necessary inquiry for resolving the dispute. In this respect, the Rent Control Rules provide that the court entertains every application in due time.
The Supreme Court also decided that the special procedure applied before the Rent Control Court having a summary character covers the extraordinary procedure of the relevant Order providing for summary judgment applicable during a usual trial before the Civil Courts. The provision in the Rent Control Rules for applying mutatis mutandis the Civil Procedures Rules could not change the special jurisdiction of the Rent Control Law.
The right to reply, unconditionally, could not become a possibility under leave of the court. Therefore, the Rent Control Court, invoking the application of the Civil Procedure Rules mutatis mutandis, introduced a new extraordinary procedure, which could not be accepted.
The discretion given by Order 18 for obtaining a summary judgment without defence should be examined in the light of proper comprehension of the rights of the litigants in accordance with the provisions of Article 30 of the Constitution and the respective provisions of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights. Consequently, this judicial initiative of the Rent Control Court was not permitted and thus the Supreme Court held that the said court had examined and issued a summary judgment without jurisdiction and ordered retrial.