Monday, November 16, 2015

Enforcement of Omani Court Judgments and Arbitration Awards in Commercial Disputes Process and Procedure

The Enforcement Department is a separate authority within the Omani Primary Courts which overlooks all aspects of enforcement.

Each Primary Court in the country is furnished with at least one enforcement judge who is also a member of the Primary Court judge panels.

Enforcement judges have jurisdiction to review all disputes, applications and requests in relation to enforcement of judgments / awards as well as any preliminary and emergency applications in ongoing commercial cases involving matters under their jurisdiction.

First: Enforcement Process

Enforcement of Court Judgments

The enforcement processes and procedures of commercial awards and judgments are governed by the Commercial and Civil Procedural Law promulgated by RD 29/2002 (as amended). In relation to court cases, the Enforcement Department is authorized to enforce final and non-appealable judgments.

Applications are made to the Enforcement Department through the commercial circuit by providing an original certified copy of the judgment award and any relevant document thereto.

The Enforcement Department will notify the opposing party of the enforcement proceedings and a seven-day objection period will be allowed.

Enforcement of Primary Court judgments will cease if an appeal is filed to the Appeal Court within the requisite appeal period. Appeal Court judgments, on the other hand, are enforceable once issued, and can only be blocked by an order from the Supreme Court or through filing a request/objection to stop the enforcement, also known as an “Istishkal.” The Istishkal process can also apply to Primary and Supreme Court judgments.

The Enforcement Judge will schedule a hearing to adjudicate the relevance of the Istishkal. Nevertheless, the Enforcement Judge has the discretion to reject the Istishkal as he deems appropriate. An Istishkal decision can be appealed through a three-judge panel at the Primary Court (if the judgment award in question does not exceed 3000 R.O) or a three-judge panel at the Appeal Court (if the judgment award in question exceeds 3000 R.O). The enforcement process will only commence (or resume) once a final decision is rendered on the Istishkal.

Enforcement of Arbitration Awards

The enforcement of arbitration awards is governed by the Omani Arbitration Law promulgated by RD 47/1997 (as amended). Specifically, Article 55 states that the President of the Commercial Court (now the President of the Appeal Court) overlooks all applications as regards commercial arbitrations. Accordingly, once an award is rendered in an arbitration, the winning party may make an application to the President of the Appeal Court requesting the enforcement of the judgment. The Appeal Court will then certify the arbitration award and deposit it with the Appeal Court which in turn will render the award final, non-appealable and most importantly, enforceable. Furthermore, the winning party will have to go through the same process of enforcement at the Enforcement Department as mentioned above by submitting the original certified copy of the award.

Second: Enforcement Procedures

The Enforcement Department connects with many governmental bodies, namely the Royal Oman Police (“ROP”), the Ministry of Housing (“MOH”) and the Central Bank of Oman (“CBO”). The Enforcement Judge has the authority and jurisdiction to make several judicial orders upon enforcement of commercial judgments and awards in situations where judgments/awards are not paid after the seven-day period. These include the ability to order:

  • the ROP to issue arrest warrants against authorized signatories;
  • the ROP to issue warrants to block and impound company vehicles;
  • the CBO to freeze company bank accounts or debit specific amounts from the company’s bank accounts; and
  • the MOH to provide information in respect of any/all properties belonging to the company in question.
In addition to the above, Enforcement Judges have jurisdiction to look at emergency applications submitted to them during the course of a commercial dispute. The Enforcement Judge has the prerogative to issue emergency orders such as travel bans on authorized signatories and freezing company bank accounts in exceptional circumstances.