The National Court of Justice is one of the two Higher Courts in Papua New Guinea with the Supreme Court being the other. The National Court is the Trial Court on matter originally registered in the National Court whilst it has appellate jurisdiction on decisions of magistrates courts ( District Courts) which have been appealed against . It also have jurisdiction to review administrative decisions of public bodies or authorities of the State as well as appeals against decisions of bodies and authorities as provided by provisions of a Statutory Law.
The Supreme Court in a Appellate Court to review decisions of the National Court but also has original jurisdiction on issues an matters of importance under the Constitution and other Constitutional laws. as well as review of decisions of authorities established under a Statute which provides for appeal to the National Court .
The National Court Registry
The registry’s main function is to support the Judiciary and the Courts discharge their Constitutional duties by providing support services to the National Court. The registry is where the cases , both of civil and criminal nature are registered and the files held and documentations filed by parties to the proceedings. It is where , in compliance with registry processes, procedures and practices guided by the relevant provisions of the rules and laws , the registry ultimately list the cases to go before the Court to hear related issues in the proceedings and eventually deal with substantive issues and make decisions.
The main court registry is at Waigani. It maintains a central Data Base and Registration System. This means that case registration numbers are allocated from Waigani and details of the case is entered into the database. Registries throughout the country ring and contact Waigani registry to allocate them file numbers for all types of cases registered .
The Registry is headed by a Registrar with a Deputy Registrar for National Courts and several Assistant Registrars. In this jurisdiction, the Registrar is also Registrar for the Supreme Court Registry. Similar to the National Court there is a Deputy registrar for Supreme court and one Assistant registrar because the registry is based in Waigani only unlike the National Court registries spread throughout the country..
We have registries in certain provinces. Our ultimate goal is to one day have registries in all provinces Nation wide. The provincial registries now located have resident Judges living in each location. In other locations , we operate what we call sub-registries which are not fully fledged registries but manned by few staff and regarded as not having the status of a registry.
We have registries in these locations with resident Judges . some locations have single Judges while there are other center which have more than one Judge as resident.
- Lae – 3 resident Judges
- Mount Hagen – 3 resident Judge
- Kokopo – 3 resident Judges
- Goroka – 2 resident Judge
- Mendi - 1 resident Judge
- Wabag-1 resident Judge
- Kundiawa- 1 resident Judge
- Wewak- 2 resident Judge
- Madang-2 resident Judge
- Kimbe - 2 resdient Judge
The Provincial registries are headed by a Assistant Registrar and a host of registry and non registry support staff who all work under the leadership of the resident Judge or the senior resident Judge here there are more than one. The Assistant Registrars are qualified lawyers – with a law degree and have been admitted to the bar to practice as lawyers in this jurisdiction.
At time of writing this comments, Alotau , Kavieng , Lorengau and Buka have sub-registries which have staff on the ground. By 2013 , Alotau , Kavieng and Buka will be upgraded to full registries and there will be a resident Judge in each location.
It has been the desire of the Judiciary under the leadership of the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia Kt to take the courts to the people than having this vital Court services concentrated in the main cities and towns of this country. To achieve this goal which is one of the forefront visions of the 5 year plan of the Judiciary , court circuits have been and are being taken to locations which not done in the past 10 years or so. There has also been a initiative of the Chief Justice to indentify and gazette locations where court circuits can be made to which provides for more locations than in the past.
Types of Cases Registered
All types of cases that the laws allow for the National Court to hear and deal with are registered in the registries . These includes both criminal and civil cases. Whilst the National Court is capable of dealing with and hearing all manners of cases, there are jurisdictional limitations provided by statutory laws. Consequently , the District courts deals with certain classes of cases while the National Court deals with other types of cases.
For instance, in criminal cases , charges laid under the Summary Offences Act are exclusively for the District Court to deal with. In civil cases, claims of up to K10,000-00 limit are not allowed in the National Court. There are some statutes which provides which court or tribunal should deal with cases arising under that Statute.
The crimes cases are mostly referred from the District court through the committal process while it is possible for other situations where they can be instituted in the National Court registry. These are class of criminal cases indicted or laid and prosecuted through Ex Officio processes. The criminal cases are taken charge of by State through their agents the Police and the Public Prosecutor.
The other class of cases are Civil Cases and these are registered by private persons by themselves or through their lawyers. The types of remedies sought under civil cases are varied . there are also specific statutes which provides for civil proceedings to be brought under that particular statute and for specific remedies.
Rules of Practice and Procedures
The conduct of business in the registry on cases registered in the registries is very much guided by the rules of practice and procedure promulgated under the National Court Act by the Judges like the National Court Rules, Human Rights , Alternative Dispute Resolutions Rules, Listing Rules , Motions Rules, Appeals Rules , , Judicial Review Rules, Commercial Listing Rules as well as those provided by specific statutory laws . A classic example would be proceedings for divorce is guided by the Matrimonial Causes Act and its rules under that Act. There are also practice directions issued by the Registrar in consultation with the Chief Justice which the registry implement in processing of the administration of the files as well as Listing of the cases before the court for hearing.
Speaking generally, all cases are commenced by instituting a originating process which come in different types. The criminal cases are commenced by a Committal Notice from the District court and registered with a prefix of CR.
In Civil Cases the common ones we have are : writ of summons ( WS) , originating summons OS) , miscellaneous proceedings (MP) , Wills probate Administration (WPA) , Matrimonial Causes (MC) ,Election Petitions(EP), Lawyers Admissions (LA) , Human Rights Enforcement (HR) .
Basics of Registration of Cases
Whilst the criminal cases are sent to us from the District Court with a Notice of Committal which forms the commencement of that proceedings, in the civil cases, the lawyer or the plaintiff prepares the appropriate summons according to the rules and is ledged at the registry with the relevant filing fee receipt. Filing fees are paid at the Finance departments cash office and receipts produced to us with any proceedings they want to register.
The summonses or originating processes are checked first to see that they conform with the requirement of the Rules and then have it signed where appropriate or approve the summons for registration.
A file number is given and registered into the database and details are also recorded into the database . a File is created and held in the registry and from time to time, relevant actions are taken until the final disposal of the proceedings by the Court.
Waigani, as the central registry has bulk of all the cases registered in the country are held and managed. Due to the large volume of cases registered here , the registry has organized itself so that different sections of the registry attend to a particular class of cases. It has named the sections into Tracks and manned by appropriate staff to deal with the cases allocated to that track.
The tracks we have now are as follows:
- Judicial Review and Appeals,
- Commercial Track,
- Election Petition
- Human Rights
- Civil Court 1
- Civil Court 2
- Civil Court 3.
Upon vetting fresh summonses for registration, the cases are allocated into the different Tracks by the Registrar depending on the nature of the case.
These Tracks are divided into two major divisions – Equity and Common Law Divisions. They are headed by Assistant Registrars. Each of the track’s have staff looking after the registry business sof the cases in that track led by a with a team leader.
- Judicial Review and Appeals
- Election petition
- Human Rights
- Civil Track 1
- Civil Track 2
- Civil Track 3
Criminal Cases is a Track of its own in the Waigani registry setting and is also headed by a Assistant Registrar.
Mediation Track is headed by a Assistant Registrar like Crimes Track. This is because it is a new area of development and more attention is being given to this by the Judiciary as a whole and wants this to flourish to a level that it provides a alternative means of settlement of disputes for lawyers and disputing parties to use rather that going before the court.
Types of Case Listings
Cases registered are meant to eventually go before the court for hearing and making decisions or appropriate directions – whether on interlocutory or related issues or on substantive issues which will finally determine the case.
Using the processes, procedures available, cases are brought before the court by a Listing Process. Creation of such lists depends on the purpose of the list, the desires of the parties to the proceedings, the practices in the registry, the directions and orders of the courts , the filing of appropriate documentations, receiving of appropriate requests etc.
Each type of Listing serve different purposes. These lists are generated by the different Tracks and put out on Notices in registry area and also attached on the Dairy Dairies – which lists cases that are to go before a court on any given date/day.
The various Listings are common to each track –meaning each track would have its own list for similar purposes another track has. The common Listings are as follows:
Criminal Cases Listings
- Circuit List for criminal cases.
- Listings List
- Trial List
Civil Cases Listings
- Call Over List
- Directions List
- Motions List
- Pre Trial List
- Trial List
- Status Conference List
Most of the tracks have these types of listings and can produce them.
In the provincial registries , they can also produce the same Listings. The only difference being that all their cases are bulked together and not divided into Tracks as in Waigani.
Where a Court is on circuit in locations where there is no registry, generally there may be a Circuit List which also forms the Call Over List and through this Call Over process, the court can set cases for Trial which thereby forms the Trial List of cases to be trialed by the court during the term of the circuit period.
The details of these listings are also discussed in discussion under the relevant parts or sections of this website by the team leaders.