Hong Kong tightens time limits for handing down of court judgments

Jul 2022


Litigants at Hong Kong courts now can expect an earlier date to receive their judgments.  To ensure that reserved judgments are handed down as expeditiously as is reasonably practicable, the judiciary issued a Practice Direction 36 on 20 May 2022 (“Practice Direction”), which came into effect on 6 June 2022. The Practice Direction applies to all cases before the Court of Appeal, the Court of First Instance and Masters (“Designated Courts”).  A separate practice (Practice Direction 37) deals with the District Court and other specialized courts.

What are “reserved judgments”?

Judgments which are not handed down orally immediately at the end of a hearing or parties’ submissions.

What are the new time limits for handing down reserved judgments in civil cases?

Court Type of cases involved Time limit
Court of Appeal Civil appeals Oral hearings 6 months after the conclusion of the hearing


Paper applications 6 months after a judge is assigned to handle the case


Applications for leave to appeal to the Court of Final Appeal 3 months after the close of parties’ submissions or the conclusion of the hearing


Court of First Instance Civil cases Trials and substantive applications lasting for less than 15 days 6 months after the conclusion of the hearing


Trials and substantive applications lasting for more than 15 days 9 months after the conclusion of the hearing


Interlocutory applications 3 months after the conclusion of the hearing


Paper applications 3 months after the close of parties’ submissions


Masters Assessment of damages 6 months after the conclusion of the hearing


All contested matters Ordinarily at the conclusion of the hearing, but within 3 months if the judgment is reserved

For oral hearings, the court must fix the dates for delivering reserved judgments at the end of the hearings.  For paper applications, the parties will be notified in writing of the actual handing down date once a judge has been assigned to handle the matter, or immediately after the close of the submissions.

A welcome timeline for Hong Kong litigation proceedings

Setting out time limits to deliver reserved judgments better protects the rights of litigants.  As consistently noted by judges in their decisions: “justice delayed is justice denied.”

In Bond v Dunster Properties Ltd [2011] EWCA Civ 455, the English Court of Appeal found that a delay of 22 months to hand down the reserved judgment was “lamentable and unacceptable”. Quoting Lady Justice Arden, “Life has to go on before, during and after litigation. In some cases, a delay in producing a judgment may prevent the parties from reaping any benefit from the litigation at all.”

More recently, Sir Geoffrey Vos, Chancellor of the English High Court in Bank St Petersburg PJSC & Anor v Arkhangelsky & Anor [2020] EWCA Civ 408, opined that parties to civil litigations are entitled to receive their judgments within three months, because “any other approach will lead to a loss of public and business confidence in our justice system”.

The new Practice Direction shortens the litigation processes at the Designated Courts by ensuring that reserved judgments can be delivered in a timely manner, and ensures that resolution in the Hong Kong courts remains an efficient process for litigants.


Suraj is the Editor of KWM Pulse.  A self-proclaimed arbitration geek, he is a senior associate in our Singapore and Hong Kong Dispute Resolution team.  While ethnically Indian, he was born in Hong Kong, lives in Singapore and is Asian at heart (his Canto is decent, so if you are going to talk about him while he’s in the room, you may want to pick a different language). When he’s not sourcing full text PDFs of every arbitration treatise for his iPad in his constant effort to go paperless, you’re likely to find him hiking or fawning over the next Apple launch.

Tony is an Associate in the Hong Kong Dispute Resolution Team, working on answers to different litigation and arbitration questions, big or small.  He enjoys playing different sports and takes pride in being a disciplined NBA fan. Off work, you will see him, if not feasting on desserts, taking baby steps to teach himself Japanese.

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