Monday, May 9, 2022

Partial and Interim Arbitral Awards in Oman

It is relatively common in arbitration proceedings for a party to seek an interim or partial award on a discrete issue. The issue may concern fundamental matters such as the tribunal’s jurisdiction, time bars on proceeding, and so forth, or preliminary points which may limit the need for certain evidence to be heard.  There are a variety of reasons why an interim or partial award may be sought.

A key issue arises in relation to interim awards in which the governing law is Oman. The Law accompanying Royal Decree 47/1997 (also known as the Oman Arbitration Law) does not contain any procedure for partial or interim awards. That would not prevent an arbitral tribunal from issuing an arbitral award, but questions arise about what a party may do to challenge an interim or partial award.

Some interim or partial awards may have the effect of concluding a matter in favour of one party or another. In such cases, the interim award is in effect a final award, and (depending on the details of the proceeding) could most likely be challenged in the same way and to the same extent that a final award might be challenged, pursuant to Articles 52 to 54 of Royal Decree 47/1997. 

However, where a partial or interim award only concludes certain aspects of an arbitration proceeding, and the arbitration continues, or where the issue had the potential to conclude the arbitration, but the award as issued did not, then any party wishing to challenge the award has a problem.  Article 54 provides that a party seeking to set aside an award must do so within 90 days.  However, because the Oman Arbitration Law does not allow for interim or partial awards, there is some uncertainty whether the 90 days commences from the receipt of the interim or partial award, or from receipt of the final award, which will in part reflect the earlier award. To date there appears to be no case law on the issue.  If a party is placed in such a situation, and thinks it has good grounds, it may be prudent to at least apply to set aside an unfavourable interim award within 90 days of its receipt, but this is a matter that should be carefully considered by a party in conjunction with its legal advisors.