Aerial Incident of 10 August 1999 (Pakistan v. India)
OVERVIEW OF THE CASE
On 21 September 1999, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan filed an Application instituting proceedings against the Republic of India in respect of a dispute concerning the destruction, on 10 August 1999, of a Pakistani aircraft. By letter of 2 November 1999, the Agent of India notified the Court that his Government wished to submit preliminary objections to the jurisdiction of the Court, which were set out in an appended note. On 19 November 1999, the Court decided that the written pleadings would first address the question of the jurisdiction of the Court and fixed time-limits for the filing of the Memorial of Pakistan and the Counter-Memorial of India, which were duly filed within the time-limits so prescribed. Public hearings on the question of the jurisdiction of the Court were held from 3 to 6 April 2000.
In its Judgment of 21 June 2000, the Court noted that, to establish the jurisdiction of the Court, Pakistan had relied on Article 17 of the General Act for Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, signed at Geneva on 26 September 1928, on the declarations of acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court made by the Parties and on Article 36, paragraph 1, of the Statute. It considered those bases of jurisdiction in turn.
The Court pointed out first that, on 21 May 1931, British India had acceded to the General Act of 1928. It observed that India and Pakistan had held lengthy discussions on the question whether the General Act had survived the dissolution of the League of Nations and whether, if so, the two States had become parties to that Act on their accession to independence. Referring to a communication addressed to the United Nations Secretary-General of 18 September 1974, in which the Indian Government indicated that, since India’s accession to independence in 1947, they had “never regarded themselves as bound by the General Act of 1928 . . . whether by succession or otherwise”, the Court concluded that India could not be regarded as party to the said Act on the date the Application had been filed by Pakistan and that the Convention did not constitute a basis of jurisdiction. The Court then considered the declaration of acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court made by the two States. It noted that India’s declaration contained a reservation under which “disputes with the government of any State which is or has been a member of the Commonwealth of Nations” was barred from its jurisdiction. The Court recalled that its jurisdiction only existed within the limits within which it had been accepted and that the right of States to attach reservations to their declarations was a recognized practice. Consequently, Pakistan’s arguments to the effect that India’s reservation was “extra-statutory” or was obsolete could not be upheld. Pakistan being a member of the Commonwealth, the Court concluded that it did not have jurisdiction to deal with the Application on the basis of the declarations made by the two States.
Considering, thirdly, the final basis of jurisdiction relied on by Pakistan, namely Article 36, paragraph 1, of the Statute, according to which “the jurisdiction of the Court comprises all cases which the parties refer to it and all matters specially provided for in the Charter of the United Nations”, the Court indicated that neither the United Nations Charter nor Article 1 of the Simla Accord of 2 July 1972 between the Parties conferred jurisdiction upon it to deal with the dispute between them.
Lastly, the Court explained that there was “a fundamental distinction between the acceptance by a State of the Court’s jurisdiction and the compatibility of particular acts with international law” and that “the Court’s lack of jurisdiction [did] not relieve States of their obligation to settle their disputes by peaceful means”.
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.