Oman: Less Court … More Speed – Oman's Court Procedure Reform

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On 12 November 2020, Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al
Said enacted a new Law on Simplification of Certain Judicial
Procedures in Specific Matters (“Law”) by virtue of
Sultani Decree No. 2020/125. It simplifies court procedures in
vital areas for foreign investors and the economy as a whole and
can be seen as a major streamliner for dispute resolution in
Oman’s economy. The Law will enter into force 3 months after
its publication in the Official Gazette on 22 November
2020.

1. What is new?

By virtue of the new Law, the current procedural legislation
will be simplified and expedited for

  • Commercial disputes in relation to foreign direct investment
    (FDI);
  • Disputes between owners and tenants of residential, commercial,
    and industrial premises;
  • Labor disputes of individuals;
  • Disputes in relation to construction projects; and
  • Disputes arising out of attested acknowledgements of debt.

The procedural specification of the Law will override the
standard court procedures, which will remain in force in case of no
specific regulation in the Law.

The Law contains the creation of special court chambers with
only one judge and special appeal chambers for the aforementioned
disputes. It improves means for electronic submission of documents
in court proceedings and shortens deadlines for certain formal
decisions (e.g. deciding the competence of the court to hear the
case). Court notifications can be sent by text messages and
electronically.

Ordinary judgments will have to be rendered within 30 days
(extendable for an additional 30-day period). Disputes arising out
of construction contracts, commercial disputes, or an FDI project
are subject to a special deadline and must be adjudicated within
four months.

Court cases initiated under the current procedural system will
be completed without reference to the new Law.

2. Labor Disputes

The Law contains a mandatory settlement procedure with the
concerned labor authorities prior to initiating formal court
proceedings. Settlements reached successfully in such procedures
become an enforceable title. Unsettled issues will be referred to
the above-mentioned chambers of the courts of 1st instance.

3. Rent Disputes

Rent agreements in accordance with the legal requirements are to
become an enforceable title. This applies to residential,
commercial, and industrial leases and follows a similar trend to
Saudi Arabia.

4. Fast Track Enforcement of Acknowledgments of Debt and
Criminal Proceedings for Bounced Cheques

Debt acknowledgements in specific forms, signed and attested by
a notary public become directly enforceable titles.

Bounced cheques and related civil claims will now be decided in
a one-track procedure in front of the criminal courts, with
separate proceedings in civil courts largely eliminated.
Accelerated procedures and limited possibilities for recourse have
been introduced to speed up procedures in cases of bounced
cheques.

5. Less Challenges of Rendered Decisions

Possibilities for appeals are limited in cases with a value of
up to 2000 OMR. Appeals must be submitted within 15 days. By
default, appeal judgments are to be rendered within 30 days with a
possible extension of up to 60 days. Appeals arising out of
construction contracts, commercial disputes, or an FDI project must
be adjudicated within six months.

Cassations before the Supreme Court are limited, and the Supreme
Court may under certain circumstances decide the case directly
without referring it back to a Court of Appeal.

6. Streamlined Enforcement

Enforcement departments will be established with every court
corresponding to the special court chambers mentioned above.
Enforcement procedures will by default not be suspended while
taking legal action against enforcement measures and related
challenges before the Supreme Court will generally not be
possible.

7. Conclusion

The new Law brings court proceedings in Oman more in line with
the requirements of businesses and especially foreign investors.
From a practical perspective, court proceedings should –
where possible – be delayed in order to benefit from the new
regulations.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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