By Dr Mary Rose Micallef – Junior Associate
UPDATED – 29 April 2020 – Legal Notice 162 of 2020
Legal Notice 162 of 2020, published on April 28, 2020, has amended Legal Notice 141 of 2020 (discussed below). These Legal notices stand in connection to Legal and Other Time Periods (Suspension and Interruption) Act – Chapter 609.
The most important set of changes that have been made by this novel Notice relate to: (a) the removal of the words “government department, government agency, or public authority” in Regulation 3; and (b) and to the change of the suspended time once the Court closure order is repealed in connection to time periods set out in private or public agreements.
(a) As seen below, the wording of the Notice 141 of 2020 used to encompass the suspension of the running of any time period imposed by a court decree or order, government department or agency or public authority. The words in relation to government departments/agency or public authority have been removed. Therefore, only the running of time incorporated in any court decree/order is suspended. This essentially means that orders of such public offices are no longer catered for in this set of legislations.
Indeed, such change clarifies that in terms of the Chapter 609, and the ancillary Legal Notices, suspension of legal time is by and large applicable to judicial and contractual matters to the exclusion of public authority orders.
(b) More importantly the suspension of times with respect to any time period established in any agreement (whether private or public), or any obligation set out in such agreements which have been directly affected by the Closure of the Courts of Justice, shall remain so suspended until the lapse of the twentieth day following the repeal of the Court closure order. In Legal Notice 141/2020 the suspension of such time for the same said circumstances had been extended only to seven days following the repeal of the Court closure order.
Yesterday, the Maltese Department of Information published Legal Notice 141 of 2020, namely the “General Provisions applying to the Suspension of Legal and Judicial Times Regulations, 2020”. This legal notice is to be read in conjunction with Chapter 609 of the laws of Malta; the Legal and Other Time Periods (Suspension and Interruption) Act.
Legal Notice 141 of 2020, is part of a series of laws, that were enacted following the publication of Closure of the Courts of Justice order. The previous legal notices were published under Chapter 465 of the Laws of Malta, the Public Health Act, whereas this one is published under the newly enacted Legal and Other Time Periods (Suspension and Interruption) Act, which seems to try to lay to rest and rectify any questions on the validity of the previous legal notices.
Their scope is to regulate the standstill in the legal world, that has been cause by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Court closed on 16 March 2020 by virtue of Legal Notice 65 of 2020.
The court closure order required a set of novel laws, that needed to suspend the abundance of running timeframes as imposed by our laws. By effect, the days that followed such closure, introduced a set of extraordinary laws that would suspend these legal timeframes (further information about these legal notices can be found in the series of articles in our page specifically set up to discuss everything law and COVID-19.
This legal notice seeks to clarify and to settle questions that have cropped up following the enactment of the previous Legal Notices.
Its regulations have been backdated as from the 2nd April 2020 – hence they are of retrospective effect.
Following this date and the enactment of Chapter 609, suspended terms have now been given a clearer definition.
Therefore, what is being suspended by the Primary Act?
The running of any time period:
– imposed under substantive or procedural law, including periods of prescription and peremptory periods.
– imposed by a decree or order of the courts, government department, government agency, or public authority;
– imposed or agreed upon in any private writing or public deed, including time periods set and agreed upon for the performance of obligations. This, to the extent that the ability to perform the obligation that has been agreed upon, had been directly impacted by the closure of our judicial and governmental bodies. By example, any term established to withdraw a court case in an agreement is suspended.
The suspension of the first two sets (abovementioned), would be extinguished after 7 days following the lifting of the Court Closure Order.
Terms as per mentioned in the third category, would ceases suspension after the twentieth day of the lifting of the closure order.
This legal notice has specifically included the suspension of the following set of time frames:-
– the running of registration periods that are imposed on a notary public; by example the fifteen working day (imposed in Chapter 55) wherein a notary must enroll (jinsinwa) a contact of sale.
– the running of time, imposed on a notary public in connection to the payment of fiscal duties;
– the running of time in connection to fiscal benefits and exemptions (pertaining to immovable property acts) such as the five-year rule in connection to residency;
– the running of time in connection to the information submission in connection to the exercise of the notarial profession;
– the running of time with respect to promise of sale (konvenji) registrations, and more importantly the running of time with respect to the expiration of any registered promise of sale agreement.
Suspension for the latter categories shall until the twentieth day following the lifting of the closure order by the Superintendent of Public Health.
In conclusion, we are indeed witnessing extraordinary events, even from the legal perspective. Following the publication of this legal notice, one may
truly say that the legal word is at a standstill.
Finally, it is important to note that by effect the suspension of time would not cause an interruption of the term. This essentially means that following the return to normal days and hence following seventh or the twentieth day as per mentioned priorly, time continues to run from where it was stopped. It shall not run afresh – it merely continues ticking.
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