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Identifying the applicable law in cross-border disputes on injuries caused by the covid-19 in India: a critical analysis

The outbreak of COVID-19 (also known as the novel coronavirus disease) has led to the initiation of several disputes. While some of these relate to the non-performance of contracts, others concern the damages arising from the injuries caused by coming into contact with the virus. Considering the nature of the pandemic, a plethora of disputes arising from tortious liability for the injuries caused are likely to involve a foreign element—when it results in injuries in some form to persons by the violation of quarantine rules by foreigners or the failure to impose a lockdown to curb the outbreak. For instance, in the United States [US], a group of individuals and business owners have reportedly initiated proceedings against the Chinese government for failing to prevent the disease from spreading. Likewise, tourists from several countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom have initiated mass litigation against the Austrian Federal State of Tyrol and tourist businesses such as sports resorts, bars and restaurants for continuing the to operate in the State despite being designated as a high-risk zone. International disputes such as these chiefly involve the identification of the law that will govern the claim to decide the rights and liabilities of the parties. Unlike in the case of contractual claims, the determination of the applicable law is more arduous in the case of torts for the reason that the parties rarely, if ever, know each other and do not expect any particular person to injure them by the harmful behaviour. That said, several countries across the globe have made remarkable progress over the years in developing a framework to identify the governing law to adjudicate cross-border disputes on torts. The European Union [EU], the UK, China, Russia, Australia and Canada are some examples. In contrast, India continues to adhere to the century-old mechanism developed under the English common law which has mostly been replaced in the UK itself. In the absence of any black-letter law on the subject, the development of the method to identify the applicable law in matters of tort has depended on the courts. The Indian courts, however, lack experience in handling international disputes on tort. As a result, there is no conclusive and coherent mechanism to identify the governing law in such matters in India. The paper demonstrates how the rules to determine the applicable law in the present form in India will severely debilitate access to justice and increase transactional costs in obtaining legal information. In particular, it highlights the plethora of problems that are likely to arise in adjudicating disputes concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. In this respect, the author provides some suggestions that the lawmakers may consider while reformulating the mechanism to identify the applicable law in matters of tort and, in particular, while adjudicating disputes relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The faces of justice: a study of the interpretation of emoji messages in the court process

As emoji 1 become more commonplace in courtroom proceedings, a question arises: what role do emoji play in social media messaging? The author draws a comparison between oral communication and social media messages and concludes lawyers have been too quick to treat text and emoji as a bundle when they should be adopting a piecemeal approach. While emoji may add context and clarity to social media messages that might otherwise appear ambiguous; emoji interpretation is far from an exact science. By exploring linguistic, gesture, and non-verbal communication theory, the author intends to discuss the tension that exists when it comes to deciphering the meaning of online communications – that include emoji – in court proceedings. While there is a tendency to conflate emoji with text in linguistic and non-verbal communication theory, a proper evidentiary analysis requires a piecemeal approach. To permeate these dynamics, the author has researched Canadian, U.K, Australian, and New Zealand case law over the period 2015 to 2020 where emoji were referenced in court decisions. The paper focuses on the treatment of emoji by the courts in these cases. Finally, the paper reviews the relevant legal issues and concludes with a consideration of whether the existing laws relating to electronic documents ought to be reformed to accommodate the admissibility of emoji messages in court proceedings.

Acquisition and protection of church property under Nigerian law: issues, challenges and some lessons for churches

Section 38 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 guarantees freedom of religion for churches and other religious organisations. This freedom allows churches to acquire and manage their own property to carry out their religious objectives. However, these religious institutions are to comply with the civil law requirements regarding acquisition, management and disposition of their property. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in legal disputes, which may adversely impact on the churches. This article accordingly analyses some case examples to pinpoint some legal issues arising from the processes of acquisition and management of property by Nigerian churches. This is against the backdrop of the increasing legal disputes involving the acquisition and management of church property in the country. The article observes among others that the churches’ failure to have good procedures to ensure that they conduct due diligence and comply with the civil law standards regarding the acquisition of property can be attributed as contributing to the increasing lawsuits. The article further implicates most lawyers that represent churches in lawsuits as not having adequate knowledge of church law and its workings. Following the above findings, the article proffers some recommendations to aid churches in the effective management of their properties.