The three Divisions (Central/Eastern, Western and Northern’ are overseen by the Senior Court Officers (Level I) of the Magistrates Court in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa, respectively.
Most of the Courts in the Districts are supervised by Court Officers. Apart from Lautoka, Labasa, Suva, and Nausori, all other district Magistrate Court registries deal with all types of matters under Magistrate Court Jurisdiction.
These registries also deal with the administrative matters for the Small Claims Tribunal, and the referees travel from Suva, Lautoka, and Labasa, respectively.
Mondays – Thursdays: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fridays: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM (except for gazetted Public Holidays)
A resident magistrate shall, in addition to any jurisdiction which he may have under any other Act for the time being in force, have and exercise jurisdiction in civil causes-
In all personal suits arising out of any accident in which any vehicle is involved where the amount, value or damages claimed, whether as a balance claimed or otherwise, is not more than $50,000 (fifty thousand dollars);
In all other personal suits, whether arising from contract, or from tort, or from both, where the value of property or the debt, amount or damage claimed whether as a balance claimed or otherwise, is not more than $50,000 (fifty thousand dollars);
In all suits between landlords and tenants for possession of any land (including any building or part thereof) claimed under any agreement or refused to be delivered up, where the annual value or annual rent does not or did not exceed $50,000 (fifty thousand dollars);
In all suits involving trespass to land or for the recovery of lands (including any building or part thereof) irrespective of its value, where no relationship of landlord and tenant has at any time existed between any of the parties to the suit in respect of the land or any part of the land (including any building or part thereof);
In any type of suit covered by paragraphs (a) and (d), whatever the value, amount, debt, damages sought to be recovered is, or whatever the annual value or annual rent is, if all the parties or their respective legal practitioners consent thereto in writing: To issue writs of habeas corpus for the production before the court of any person alleged upon oath to be wrongfully imprisoned and detained, and to make orders thereon;
To appoint guardians of infants, and to make orders for the custody of infants;
To grant in any suit instituted in the court injunctions or orders to stay waste or alienation or for the detention and preservation of any property the subject of such suit, or to restrain torts or breaches of contracts;
To enforce by attachment any order made by the court;
To commit to prison for a term not exceeding 6 (six) weeks, or until payment of the sum due, any person who makes default in payment of any debt or instalment of any debt due from the person, under an order or judgment of the court or any other competent court (including the High Court).
Provided that such jurisdiction shall only be exercised where it is proved, to the satisfaction of the Court, that the person making default either has, or has had since the date of the order or judgment, the means to pay the sum in respect of which he has made default, and has refused or neglected or refuses or neglects to pay the same. For the purposes of this paragraph, any court may direct any debt due from any person, in pursuance of any order or judgment of that or of any other competent court, to be paid by instalments, and may, from time to time, rescind or vary such order.
Civil Court Procedures in Brief
Civil Proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court are initiated by way of Writ of Summons. A returnable date is given to the Writ of Summons on which all served parties are required to appear in Court. The Plaintiff is required to file an Affidavit of Service in the Civil Registry at-least 3 clear days before the returnable date to show proof that the Writ of Summons has been served on the defendant(s).
1. What happens in the court on a returnable date?
Non-appearance of the Defendant If the Defendant does not appear then, a Default Judgment may be entered against the Defendant, if the claim is a liquidated amount. Where the claim is of an unliquidated amount, however, the case may be set down for the Plaintiff to prove its case.Note:Any judgment by default may be set aside by the Magistrate upon such terms as to costs or otherwise as the Magistrate may think fit.
Appearance by the Defendant Where the defendant attends court on the returnable date and admits the sum claimed by the plaintiff, Judgment by Consent may be entered against the Defendant.
2. Defendant attends Court and Disputes the Claim
Every Defendant who is served with a Writ of Summons is required to file with the Civil Registry a Notice of Intention to Defend if the claim is not admitted.
If the above has not been filed then he/she may apply to the Court for time to file a Statement of Defense and the Magistrate may grant him/her the application.
If the Defendant has filed the Notice of Intention to Defend then, she/he will be given time to file a Statement of Defense and Counterclaim, if necessary. The Plaintiff will then be given time to reply to Statement of Defense and Counter claim.
After the parties have successfully filed the papers, the court at its own discretion will order for the pre-trial conference or agreed facts & issues to be determined by the court to expedite the trial.
A date for hearing will then be set whereby both parties will be required to produce evidence to support their case.
A ruling will be delivered by the Magistrate thereafter.
3. Calling of Witnesses
A party to any proceedings may call a witness to Court by issuing a Subpoena to compel the attendance of such person on the hearing date.
The Subpoena shall be served 7 clear days before the date of hearing.
If, before the date is fixed hearing, the Plaintiff decides to discontinue any suit against all or any of the Defendants, or to withdraw any part of his alleged claim, the Plaintiff shall give notice in writing of discontinuation (Notice of Discontinuance) or withdrawal to the Registry and to every Defendant he desires to discontinue or withdraw against.
The Magistrates will hear the matter and deliver judgment.
4. Filing and Sealing of Order
An order of Court may be sealed/perfected/furnished by either party to the case filed with the civil registry and a copy must be served on the other parties to the case without delay.
5. Civil Appeals
Notice of Intention To Appeal
Any party intending to appeal a decision of the court must file within 7 days after the day on which the judgment was given, a Notice of Appeal and serve every other Party.
Provided that such notice may be given verbally to the court in the presence of the opposition, immediately after the judgment is pronounced.
Security of Payment Of Cost Upon receiving Notice of Appeal, the court may in its discretion give security of cost to the satisfaction of the court in such sum as the court shall direct, either by deposit or by bond, for the payment of all such cost as may be awarded to the respondent by the appellate court.
Ground of Appeal The appellant shall, within one month from the date of decision appeal file with the civil registry the grounds of his appeal, and shall serve a copy of the Grounds of Appeal on every other party.
6. Enforcement of Court orders
An order of the High Court, Magistrate’s Court and Small Claims Tribunal can be enforced at Magistrate’s Court under the following options:
Writ of Fieri Facias (FIFA)
Judgment Debtor Summons (JDS)
a. Writ of Fieri Facias (FIFA)
The FIFA is issued by any successful party in a civil case.
The FIFA is directed to the Sheriff’s officer who is empowered to levy by distress and sale of the personal property, wherever found within Fiji, of a person against whom the Judgment was given. Execution shall be issued after the 14 days grace period subsequent to the judgment.
The Sheriff’s Officer can seize all personal property belonging to a party against whom execution is to be enforced, and whether held in his own name or by another party in trust for him or on his behalf (except the wearing apparel and bedding of himself or his family and the tools and implements of his trade, if any, to the value of ten dollars) is liable to attachment and sale in execution of the decree.
After 5 days of the seizure of items, the Sheriff’s Officer can sell the items by public auction after such advertisement as the Court shall direct.
Once the money is recovered/received, it is paid out to the successful party.
b. Judgment Debtor Summons (JDS)
JDS shall be personallyserved upon the judgment debtor (person who owes money).
A judgment summons shall be served not less than ten clear days before the day fixed for the hearing. The debtor should also be paid conduct money for transportation to Court.
Once the Affidavit of Service is successfully filed, the matter is called in Court.
If the Judgment Debtor appears in court and admits the claim, then the court shall carry out a means test to assess the payment capability of the debtor and make an order for payment. The order includes an imprisonment term for in default of payment.
If the Judgment Debtor fails to appear in court, then the Court will issue a Bench Warrant for the arrest and production of the debtor to Court.
The Bench Warrant is directed to the Sheriff’s Officer who is empowered to execute the same and present the Judgment Debtor in Court.
Once the warrant is executed, the Judgment debtor’s means test is done and order of payment is made by the Court.
In the event the Judgment Debtor fails to comply with the payment order, a committal proceeding can be instituted to compel payment. The order includes an imprisonment term for in default of payment.
An Order of Commitment is directed to the Sheriff’s Officer for execution. This document is only valid for 1 year. Upon execution, the debtor can pay the default amount and costs, and be released or be presented in Court for further necessary orders. However, if the debtor is deliberately avoiding payment then the Court sends him to prison (default period).
Once the payment is made in full, the matter is closed.
c. Bankruptcy proceedings
A Judgment creditor is a person who has obtained a Judgment against the Judgment Debtor in a civil case.
To initiate a bankruptcy proceeding in the Magistrate’s Court, the Judgment Creditor will file a Bankruptcy Notice together with the Request to Issue Bankruptcy Notice (and a copy of the Judgment/Order being enforced) at the Civil Registry.
The Request and Notice are valid for only a month.
The judgment debtor is given 7 days’ time to respond to the Request and Notice within which time he/she must write to the Clerk of Court to admit the Notice or to dispute the same.
Once the Judgment creditor has successfully files the Affidavit of Service in Court, he/she shall within 3 months file a Bankruptcy Petition.
An Affidavit Verifying Debt should be sworn and filed within 24 hours before the Petition is called in Court.
Once the petition is called and the above Affidavit Verifying Debt is filed, the Court shall order a Receiving Order against the Judgment Debtor unless the petition is challenged in which a hearing will take place.
The Official Receiver is the constituted receiver of the estate of the debtor after the making of the Receiving Order.
Once the amount is paid in full, the Official Receiver will apply to Court that the Receiving Order be rescinded.
If the Official Receiver has exhausted all the avenues to recover the debt owed, hence the Debtor has nothing of value, nor even permanent work to pay in instalments, then he shall apply to the Court for the Debtor to be adjudicated or declared bankrupt.
d. Garnishee Summons
Garnishee Summon is issued by the plaintiff on a third person who owes money to the defendant.
The third person who owes money can be a bank or anyone indebted to the debtor, who has obtained a judgment or order for the recovery of a payment.
In this case, the third person pays the Plaintiff instead of the Defendant.
MAGISTRATE’S COURT CRIMINAL
Magistrate’s Courts are established under the Magistrate’s Court Act (Chapter 14). It is the Court of first instance and most Civil and Criminal cases are first heard in the Magistrate’s Court. Magistrate’s Courts handle Civil, Criminal, Traffic, Inquest, Domestic Violence Restraining Order and Juvenile matters.
All Criminal matters regardless of the seriousness of the charge have to be filed in the Magistrate’s Court. Criminal proceedings are those that are brought before a Court to seek the conviction and punishment of a person or body for the commission of an act that amounts to a criminal offence under the law.
In the exercise of their Criminal Jurisdiction, Magistrate’s Courts have the powers and jurisdiction conferred on them by the Crimes Act 2009 and Criminal Procedure Act 2009, the two Principal legislations or any other law for time being in force.
Sentences Which a Magistrate May Pass
1. A magistrate may, in the cases in which such sentences are authorized by law, pass the following sentences, namely:
Imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years; or
Fine not exceeding $15,000.
2. A Magistrate may impose consecutive sentences upon a person convicted of more than one offence in a trial, but in no case shall an offender be sentenced to imprisonment for a longer period than 14 years.
3. The sentencing limits prescribed in sub-section (1) may be further restricted in relation to Magistrates of certain classes as provided for in any law dealing with the establishment and jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court.
4. Where any magistrate of a certain class sentences an offender for more than one offence in a trial, the aggregate punishment shall not exceed twice the amount of punishment which that magistrate has jurisdiction to impose.
All courts which have tried any criminal proceeding and determined that a person has committed an offence, shall proceed to consider and impose any sentence or penalty in accordance with the procedures and range of sentencing options provided for in the Sentencing and Penalties Act2009; and subject to any maximum sentence or penalty stated in the law which creates the offence.
An inquest is a judicial inquiry in common law jurisdictions, particularly one held to determine the cause of a person’s death.
“Cause of death” includes not only the apparent cause of death as ascertainable by inspection or post-mortem examination of the body of the deceased, but also all matters necessary to enable an opinion to be formed as to how the deceased came by his death and whether his death resulted in any way from, or was accelerated by, any negligent or unlawful act or omission on the part of any other person.
“Sudden Or Unnatural Death” means a death or disappearance where-
A person has committed suicide; or
A person has been killed by another, or by an animal or by machinery or during the course of a fire or by accident; or
A person has died under circumstances in which some other person may have committed an offence; or
A person has died, or has disappeared in circumstances which raise a reasonable presumption that he has died, and the cause of such death or presumed death is not known.
The Inquest matters are dealt pursuant to Inquests Act 1967, which clearly stipulates the duties of a Magistrate, who is assigned by the Chief Magistrates to hear the matter.
Duty of Magistrate on receipt of report
If, upon receiving all necessary reports, a magistrate shall be satisfied, without holding an inquest, as to the cause of death, he shall report to the Attorney-General the cause of death as ascertained to his satisfaction.
A magistrate may hold an inquest if there is no body available, in any of the circumstances referred to in section 3.
A magistrate shall not hold any inquest under this Act if he has reason to believe that criminal proceedings against any person for having caused the death of the deceased have been, or are about to be, commenced.
In all other cases, the magistrate shall proceed as soon as possible to hold an inquest but may adjourn the inquest sine die if any such criminal-proceedings as aforesaid are commenced.
Powers of Magistrate
A Magistrate holding an inquest shall have all the powers exercisable by a Magistrate in holding a criminal trial under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 and shall give at least fourteen days notice of his or her intention to hold any inquest by the insertion of a notice in the Gazette and a notice, in such languages, as he considers desirable, in such editions of a newspaper published and circulating in Fiji or some part thereof, as he or she shall think fit.
A Magistrate holding an inquest, if he or she considers it expedient that the body of the deceased person should be examined by a medical officer in order to discover the cause of death, may, whether a post-mortem examination has been performed under the provisions of section 5 or not, issue an order to a medical officer to perform a post-mortem examination of such body, and may, for such purpose, order it to be exhumed.
Matters to be ascertained at inquest
The proceedings and evidence at an inquest shall be directed solely to ascertaining the following matters, and any matters relevant thereto, namely:-
Who the deceased was;
The cause and the date and place of death;
The persons, if any, to be charged with murder, manslaughter, infanticide, causing death by dangerous driving or of being accessories before the fact to such offences, should the magistrate find that the deceased came by his death by murder, manslaughter, infanticide or by dangerous driving;
The particulars for the time being required under the provisions of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act to be registered concerning the death.
For the purpose of avoiding doubt it is hereby declared that a finding under paragraph (c) of shall not operate as a committal for trial nor shall such proceedings be deemed to be a preliminary inquiry.
Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Domestic Violence Act 2009)
“Domestic violence” in relation to any person means violence against that person (`the victim’) committed, directed or undertaken by a person (‘the perpetrator’) with whom the victim is, or has been, in a family or domesticrelationship.
“Violence” means any of the following –
Physical injury or threatening physical injury;
Sexual abuse or threatening sexual abuse;
Damaging or threatening to damage property of a victim;
Threatening, intimidating or harassing;
Persistently behaving in an abusive, cruel, inhumane, degrading, provocative or offensive manner;
Causing the victim apprehension or fear by – i. Following the victim; or
ii. Loitering outside a workplace or other place frequented by the victim, or iii. Entering or interfering with a home or place occupied by the victim, or iv. Interfering with property of the victim, or v. Keeping the victim under surveillance;
Causing or allowing a child to see or hear any of the violence referred to in paragraphs (a) to (f) inclusive;
Causing another person to do any of the acts referred to in paragraphs (a) to (g) inclusive towards the victim.
Causing or allowing a child to see or hear violence, as specified in paragraph (g), includes putting the child, or allowing the child to be put, at real risk of seeing or hearing that violence.
A person who suffers the violence is not to be regarded, for the purposes of paragraph (g) as having caused or allowed or put the child at real risk of seeing or hearing the violence.
A single act may amount to violence in addition a number of acts that form part of a pattern of behaviour may amount to violence even though some or all of those acts, when viewed in isolation, may appear minor or trivial.
Jurisdiction of Courts
The following Courts have jurisdiction to make orders under this Act –
The Magistrates’ Court when constituted by a Resident Magistrate;
The Family Division of the Magistrates’ Court;
The Family Division of the High Court;
A Juvenile Court; and
The High Court.
An application under the Domestic Violence Act 2009 may be commenced in any of the Courts specified above and in addition those Courts may make an order under this Act when exercising jurisdiction in other proceedings before the Court, including proceedings relating to a criminal charge.
Who can apply
An application for an order under this Act maybe made in respect of –
An adult, by –
The person themselves; or
Another person who normally cares for, or is currently caring for, the person;
A child, by –
i. A parent or guardian of the child; ii. An adult with whom the child resides (either usually or on a temporary basis); iii. A child themselves where the child has attained the age of 16 years and is a married person; and iv. A child themselves where the child has attained the age of 16 years and the court has granted leave to the child to make the application on their own behalf;
An adult or a child, by –
a police officer, where a person has been charged with a domestic violence offence or the police officer suspects or believes that a domestic violence offence has recently been committed, is being committed, is imminent, or is likely to be committed, and the victim’s safety or wellbeing is at risk; or
The Director of Social Welfare or a welfare officer appointed under section 37(2) of the Juveniles Act; or
The Fiji Public Trustee Corporation Limited when undertaking the management and care of the property of a person of unsound mind under section 20(1) of the Public Trustee Act 2006 or another person holding an appointment in respect of the affairs of a person of unsound mind; or
The Fiji Public Trustee Corporation Limited when holding an appointment under section 20(2) of the Fiji Public Trustee Corporation Act 2006 to undertake the management and care of the property of an incapable person:
Any other person where it appears to the Court to be necessary for the safety or wellbeing of the victim.
Where an application is made under section 19(1) for the protection of a person over 16 years and the applicant is not the person intended to be protected, the applicant must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Court that –
The applicant has the consent of the person to be protected to make the application; or
The person to be protected lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings or the nature and extent of the risk and the proceedings are necessary for the victim’s safety or wellbeing; or
It is not reasonable in the circumstances for consent to be required.
Application by Police by Telephone
A prescribed police officer may apply to a Magistrate or Judge of a Court that has jurisdiction under the Act (referred to in this section as the “presiding judicial officer”) by telephone for an interim domestic violence restraining order.
Before applying for an order under this section the police officer must –
Complete the application part of the prescribed form by indicating the grounds on which the order is sought;
If possible to do so, without causing any unreasonable delay in making the application, transmit a copy of the completed application to the presiding judicial officer by facsimile transmission;
If the respondent is present at the location from which the police officer is intending to apply for the order by telephone –
Invite the respondent to be present during the telephone application; or
If the respondent is in custody, unless there are good reasons not to do so, arrange for the respondent to be present;
At the commencement of the application by telephone advise the presiding judicial officer whether the respondent is present with the police officer and if present whether the respondent is able to hear all of the telephone call.
Where a presiding judicial officer to whom the application is made is of the opinion that it is not practical in the circumstances of the case for the police officer to appear before the Court to make the application, the application may proceed by telephone.
Where an application proceeds by telephone, the proceedings are deemed to be interim proceedings in Court before the presiding judicial officer.
Any order made by the presiding judicial has the same effect as an order made in Court under the Act.
As soon as possible after an order under this section is made, the police officer must –
cause a copy of the application and the order received by facsimile transmission from the presiding judicial officer, or if not available, then the application completed and the order to be served on the defendant; and
unless already explained to the respondent by the presiding judicial officer, cause the effect of the orders to be explained to the respondent;
cause a copy of the documents referred above to handed as soon as possible to the person protected by the order;
An order made under this section is deemed to be a summons to the respondent requiring the respondent to appear before the Court at the time and place shown on the order.
Orders by the Court’s own motion
Notwithstanding any other provision in the Act, where the Court that has jurisdiction under this Act is dealing with proceedings, other than proceedings under this Act, the Court may on its own motion make a domestic violence restraining order under this Act if the Court considers –
There are sufficient grounds to consider making an order under this Act;
That the order is required to ensure the safety and wellbeing of a victim of domestic violence;
It is convenient and in the interests of justice that the order be made; and
It is reasonable in all the circumstances that the order be made.
An order made by the Court on its own motion is an interim order and the Court must give directions in relation to –
The date and place of the next hearing;
Who must be present at Court at the next hearing;
Service of the order;
Any documents that should be filed prior to the next hearing; and
Any other matter relating to the further hearing of the matter considered appropriate by the Court.
DVRO proceedings are held in CLOSED COURT.
Proceedings include the officers of the Court, Counsel if any and the parties to the proceedings.
Court may exclude a person from the whole or part of the proceedings or impose conditions upon attendance.
No proceedings of DBVRO is published in newspapers, radio broadcast or television. If anyone disseminates to the public or to a section of the public by any means any account of the proceedings commits an offence and is liable for a conviction to a fine of $10,000 & to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months.
Jurisdiction in relation to appeals
Section 72(1) applies to an order of a Court in proceedings under this Act, other than proceedings in relation to the criminal offence under section 77 of breach of a domestic violence restraining order, to –
Make or refuse to make an order; or
Dismiss the proceedings.
Subject to section 73(3), an appeal from an order to which this section applies where it was made –
by the Magistrates’ Court, the Family Division of the Magistrates’ Court or a Juvenile Court, lies of right to the Family Division of the High Court;
as an original decision of a judge of the Family Division of the High Court or the High Court, lies to the Court of Appeal;
By judges of the Family Division of the High Court sitting on appeal from orders of the Magistrates’ Court, the Family Division of the Magistrates’ Court or a Juvenile Court, lies to the Court of Appeal with leave of the Court of Appeal.
Commencing an appeal
Subject to this section, an appeal against an order maybe commenced by a person who was –
An applicant in the proceedings; or
A person for whose protection or benefit an order under this Act was sought; or
The respondent to the proceedings.
An appeal must be commenced within 28 days of the date on which the order or decision which is the subject of the appeal was made.
Where an order was made with the consent of the respondent no appeal by the respondent lies in relation to that order without the leave of the Court which would hear the appeal if leave is granted.
Appeal does not act as a stay of the order under appeal
Unless the Court that made the order appealed from otherwise directs –
The operation of an order made under this Act is not suspended as a result of an appeal being filed; and
Every order made under this Decree may be enforced in the same manner in all respects as if no appeal were pending.
Court considers DVRO matters as profoundly urgent and important therefore the matters are called forthwith without any sort of delay.
Mr. Usaia Ratuvili
Mr. Ropate Green
Ms. Waleen George
Mr Kashyapa Wickramasekara
Mr Jeremaia Savou
Ms Geethani Wijesinghe
Mr Asanga Bodaragama
Ms Seini Puamau
Mr Indula Ratnayake
Mr Joseph Daurewa
Ms Sufia Hamza
Mr Charles Ratakele
Mr Shageeth Somaratne
Mr Lasitha Chaminda
Mr Thushara Thenakoon
Mr Cama Tuberi
Mr Peni Dalituicama
Ms Nirosha Kannangara
Ms Nilmini Ferdinandez