Judge calls for axing of HK$1m appeals trigger
A top judge called yesterday for the abolition of a clause under which civil disputes can reach the Court of Final Appeal if they involve claims of HK$1 million or more.
'The time has come - indeed is long overdue - to bring this court in line with other courts of last resort by abolishing appeals as of right,' Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary said.
The judge was writing in a judgment on a civil case handed down yesterday. The clause was heavily criticised by him and five other Court of Final Appeal judges in two judgments handed down yesterday.
Currently, under section 22 of the Court of Final Appeal Ordinance, a civil appeal can go to the top court if the dispute involves HK$1 million or more.
'In my view, it is doubtful that it is in the public interest that such a provision still has a place,' Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li wrote in one of the judgments. 'The experience of this court has been that appeals brought by this route are a drain on resources, waste time and hinder in a very tangible way the resolution of other, far more meritorious proceedings.'
One of the cases involved a mortgage dispute, while the other was over the sale of a village house.
Bokhary noted that the 'as of right' clause was becoming rare in common-law jurisdictions.
Before the handover, appeals from Hong Kong could go to the Privy Council in England if their value amounted to HK$500,000 or more.
In the ordinance, which came into effect in 1997, the limit was raised to HK$1 million.
Mr Justice Henry Litton said that if reforms were implemented, hopeless appeals would be weeded out early, helping free up the system for cases that have merit and saving unnecessary costs.