An agreement between Oman and India is an important development for lawyers and litigants alike


Officially titled the 'Agreement between the Government of the Sultanate of Oman and the Government of the Republic of India on Legal and Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters' (the Judicial Agreement), the agreement seeks to improve the effectiveness of each nation in regard to civil disputes traversing both jurisdictions.   

Namely, the Judicial Agreement:

  • Establishes procedures for the service of judicial orders and other legal documents (such as judgments and summonses) by allowing each nation to request a 'Competent Authority' to assist with such processes.
  • Provides a framework for the judicial authorities in each nation to seek the assistance of each other for the taking of evidence (such as oaths of witnesses) in commercial or civil proceedings via the submission of a 'Letter of Request' exchanged between them.  
  • Expressly confirms that the two nations shall recognise and execute any decrees or judgments passed by the courts of the other nation in civil and commercial matters, subject to certain caveats. 

The Judicial Agreement was given legislative effect in Oman via Royal Decree 18/2020.

Whilst concerned with civil as opposed to criminal law matters, the scope of the Judicial Agreement may extend to criminal court judgments which have a compensatory element, as it applies to decrees or judgments made by 'criminal courts in civil matters.' [1] Hence, that may mean an award of compensation to a victim by a criminal court may be capable of recognition and enforcement via the Judicial Agreement, depending on the underlying facts and circumstances of the case and judicial reasoning.  Such awards of compensation are not unusual in fraud related cases. 

Importantly, the Judicial Agreement enshrines the right of each nation's courts to decline recognition of in certain circumstances.  These include where any judgment, amongst other things, contravenes a nation's 'Basic Statute or Constitution or the principles of public order or morals in the Requested State.' [2] Such 'carve outs' are consistent with existing exceptions to the recognition of foreign judgments generally in Oman under existing civil procedure laws. [3] Protections are also included to prohibit the recognition or enforcement of any cases where judgment was passed in absentia or the concerned party was not '…duly summoned so as to be able to defend himself.' [4] 

Where a defendant is unable to be located, it remains an open question if 'substituted service' by way of a notice published in a newspaper would be considered to have given a defendant sufficient notice of the proceeding akin to being 'duly summoned.'  

Notably, the Judicial Agreement also provides a mechanism for the enforcement and ratification of arbitral awards issued in either country. [5] Both Oman and India are already longstanding signatories to the New York Convention: [6] Oman having ratified the New York Convention over two decades ago [7] and India being one of the earliest signatories before proceeding to ratify the convention in 1960. 

However, it may be argued there is a somewhat wider scope for the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards via the Judicial Agreement.

Whilst India has ratified the New York Convention, it has done so with the caveat that such ratification only applies to arbitral awards deemed 'commercial' in nature [8] and this has led to controversy and litigation before the Indian courts in the past.  As such, the Judicial Agreement could potentially provide an additional or supplementary procedural pathway for the enforcement and recognition of arbitral awards involving Indian litigants. 

The Judicial Agreement comes at an exciting time for cross border and dispute resolution generally in Oman, with the recent enactment of simplified litigation procedures in the Omani courts. [9] For Indian and Omani companies alike, the Judicial Agreement will undoubtedly add to investor confidence and help grow cross border investment. 

For further information about our Oman disputes practice, please contact the team below.  

Key Contacts

Saif Al Mamari

Saif Al Mamari

Partner, Commercial Disputes
Oman

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Nicholas Henrikson

Nicholas Henrikson

Counsel, Commercial Disputes
Oman

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[1] Judicial Agreement, Article 13(1). 
[2] Judicial Agreement, Articles 22 and 23.
[3] As enshrined in Royal Decree No. 29/2002 Promulgating the Law of Civil and Commercial Procedure.
[4] Judicial Agreement, Article 18(d). 
[5] Judicial Agreement, Article 23.
[6] Officially titled the The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
[7] Via Royal Decree No. 36/1998 On Accession of the Sultanate to the UN Agreement 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitration Awards (Oman) and The Foreign Awards (Recognition and Enforcement) Act 1961 (India) respectively.
[8] The Foreign Awards (Recognition and Enforcement) Act 1961, s 2. 
[9] Royal Decree 125/2020 Promulgating the Law on the Simplification of Litigation Procedures regarding Some Disputes.