I don’t think I have ever posted a proper post on Qanoon.om – the project that Yousuf Al Busaidi and I have been working on to provide members of the public in Oman with full access to all the Omani laws. We have had some major updates on Qanoon.om recently and I thought it would be worthwhile to post something about it here.
Accessing the legislation in Oman is extremely difficult. Even though the new laws are published weekly in the Official Gazette offline and online on the website of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, these updates only provide to the most recent laws only and there is no official or unofficial free source on the internet that allows a person to find all the royal decrees that His Majesty issued. The Ministry of Legal Affairs has a collection of the most important 100 or so laws plus royal decrees that were issued after the year 2012. His Majesty has issued more than 4000 royal decrees since he came into power in 1970, but there are only 300 royal decrees on the website of the Ministry of Legal Affairs. Not only are more than 90% of the royal decrees that HM issued are not available online, but even those available on the website of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, these documents are only available in PDF, which means that you cannot actually use any search on their website to find the information that you are looking for. If you do not know the name or number of the royal decree you are looking for, there is no way for you to find the information you need.
A few years ago we decided to create our solution to this problem by attempting to collect all the royal decrees that His Majesty and publish them online for anyone to download for free. The result of this project is Qanoon.om – a website that offers for download every single royal decree since 1974. These royal decrees are not only “laws”, but they also provide details on the annual government budget, the five year plan, the ratification of international treaties, the ratification of oil exploration and concession agreements, appointment of government officials, creation of official entities, granting the Omani nationality, and so numerous other aspects of life in Oman. This information is not only vital for lawyers, but it is important for civil servants, business people, researchers, and anyone living in Oman.
Since its launch later last year, thousands of people in Oman already use Qanoon.om, and in order to make our website truly accessible to the public we made sure that it is easy to use on mobile devices as it turns out that more than 60% of our users access the website on such devices. We are also slowly converting our PDFs into text so that users can use the search feature on the website to find the information they need, copy and paste the law directly if they have, or use Google translate to translate it to English if they need to share it with a non-Arabic speaker.
For anyone using the website the above is old news, but we have recently added a new major feature to the website. In addition to the 4000+ royal decrees that we have on Qanoon, we have recently completed uploading all Ministerial Decisions that were published in the Legislation Volumes from the year 1972 onwards. We currently have about 3000 of these decisions that have the status of secondary legislation in Oman and provide implementation details for many of the laws that are issued by royal decrees. All these decisions are tagged with details about the Official Gazette in which they were published and if we have a copy of that issue of the Official Gazette the post will link directly to it. The decisions are also classified by organisation so it is possible to browse them that way. Even though less than a month has passed since we launched this section, a major percentage of our traffic already goes to it. We believe that our website is the first and only source to make many of these vital documents available for free on the internet.
The thing that I like the most about our website is that our search engine can now find all primary and secondary legislation relevant to any keyword, as simple as this sound, there is no website on the internet that provides this feature and it has already helped me locate numerous documents that I had no other way of finding.
We still have many other plans for improving Qanoon.om and making it more helpful to those who need access to Omani legislation. While we continue to convert more royal decrees into full text format, we will soon start adding laws with integrated amendments so that the users can easily see the final version of a law without having to track down amendments. We are confident that our formatting and document presentation of these integrated laws will be better than anything Oman has seen before.
If you are interested in staying up to date with legislation updates in Oman make sure to follow Qanoon.om on Twitter.