Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Evidence Law for Civil and Commercial Transactions

A new evidence law for civil and commercial court cases was issued in Royal Decree 68 of 2008 (the "New Evidence Law"). Prior to the issuance of the New Evidence Law, there was no formal law governing the rules of evidence in civil and commercial court cases in Oman. The rules of evidence in such cases were developed by practice and heavily influenced by the Egyptian Civil Code.

The New Evidence Law lays out a comprehensive framework for which types of evidence may be admitted, the role of the judge in the process, privileges, and expert witnesses. Some highlights of the law include:

  • The Court may require a party to a case to submit a document under the following circumstances: (1) if the law requires disclosure of the document; (2) if the document is joint or common amongst the parties to the case; or (3) if a party has used the document at any stage during the case.
  • It is permissible for witnesses to provide evidence. The Court must approve the witness. It is also permissible for the Court to call witnesses.
  • Witnesses must have capacity to testify. Witnesses must be at least 15 years old. If the witness is under 15 years, he may be permitted to testify but will not be required to swear an oath regarding his testimony.
  • One cannot be required to testify against one’s spouse, unless one spouse has lodged a case against the other.
  • The Court may appoint an expert to provide input on technical (but not legal) matters, such as engineering, accounting, etc.
  • The parties to a case may question the expert report or ask that it be disregarded.
Another aspect of the Evidence Law that is being applied more frequently in recent years is the principle of "Al Yameen", or solemn oath. Al Yameen is a specific oath made by the defendant in a case swearing the truthfulness of his statement.

The New Evidence Law provides a clearer framework for proving matters in civil and commercial court cases in Oman. Companies or individuals which find themselves in litigation can rely upon this framework in determining which evidence will be admitted and how it will be treated by the Courts.