Defense Order No. 28 ‘no longer necessary’, says JBA head

(File photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Head of the Jordanian Bar Association (JBA) Yahya Abu Aboud said defense orders are no longer necessary, with particular mention of Defense Order No. 28, which pertains to debtor imprisonment. اضافة اعلان

Defense orders were issued to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences that rendered many people unable to pay their debts, Abu Aboud told Jordan News, but two years on, “no official statistics appear to prove that debtors are committed to paying their debts to creditors, and the latter are often now becoming debtors themselves”.

“This undermines trust in the legal system and judicial decisions,” he stressed.

It is critical, therefore, to have alternatives to these orders, as well as to partially “withdraw from them”, he said, adding that extending the provisions of the penal decisions related to the imprisonment of debtors and perpetrators of financial crimes is only postponing the problem, not solving it, especially since debts continue to increase due to the interest levied on them over time.

Abu Aboud said that “everyone in Jordan can be both a creditor and a debtor at the same time, and this is what drives the Jordanian economy”, adding that “business dealings are based on forward transactions rather than cash”.

Because there are no alternatives to imprisoning debtors, creditors will be unable to get their dues, and this is bound to make people refrain from the present way of doing deals and turn to cash transactions, which require cash liquidity that not everyone had, “especially since the majority of Jordanians have low income”.

Abu Aboud said that the amended piece of legislation No. 9 of 2022, which went into effect on Friday, addresses part of the issue posed by the Defense Order No. 28; it states that those who owe a debt of less than JD5,000 will not be imprisoned, while larger debtors face jail. The duration of imprisonment, however, was reduced and debtors cannot be jailed for more than 120 days.

MP Zaid Al-Otoum told Jordan News that “Jordan is a state of law”, and thus a return to normal life means a “return to the original application of the text of the law without defense orders, which are exceptional and no longer required after the pandemic has ended”.

Otoum argues that returning to the original wording of the law protects both the creditor and the debtor, and that this stage must be faced regardless of its intricacies in order for Jordanian economic life to return to its previous era.

He added that if there is fear that once the defense order is cancelled a significant number of debtors will go to jail, “there should be a serious conversation about altering the law, not through defence orders”.

Lawyer Lamees Sulaiman told Jordan News that when the curfew was imposed and shops were closed, in the period from March 18 to May 1, 2020, some courts decided that landlords would have to pay the rent in full during the closing period, while others said that landlords and the tenants would have to pay the rents, equally.

The Court of Cassation eventually resolved this issue by charging the rents in full to the landlord during the closing period, Suleiman said.

“It was also decided to postpone the imprisonment of debtors owing less than JD100,000, meaning that if a judgment was issued obligating any tenant to pay a sum totaling less than this amount and the tenant did not pay it to the landlord, and did not offer a settlement, the landlord could not request the imprisonment of the tenant until September 30, 2022,” she added.

Lawyer Amin Al-Khawaldeh told Jordan News that the defense order constituted “an unprecedented breach between the two parties to the contract (the landlord and the tenant), and this represented a victory for one party at the expense of the other without taking into account the difficult economic conditions that surrounded and afflicted everyone”.

“What is remarkable for us, as lawyers and observers, is that most of these tenants, depending on the defense orders, failed to pay their obligations,” he added.

“There are thousands of lawsuits and claims, without the slightest initiative from the tenants to pay, sheltered by legal protection under the current defense order, which upset the balance of justice, the rule of law and the principles of justice and fairness,” he stressed.

Abdallah Tarabsheh, a landlord, told Jordan News that “I had two apartments that I used for the purposes of leasing, but because of the defense orders, the tenants did not pay the rent, and due to the current circumstances they also lost their jobs, which made me bear the circumstances with them and as a result I exempted them from paying the rent for more than four months”.

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