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International Court of Justice

Mar 04, 2022

International Court of justice

In today’s series of our Current Affairs Dialog Box, we will discuss the International Court of Justice and how it is relevant to the current Russia-Ukraine crisis. The topic should be studied in-depth during the UPSC exam preparation as it has relevant to the Prelims and Mains syllabus. 

For Prelims: International Court of Justice (ICJ).

For Mains: Composition, jurisdiction and limitations of International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Why in the News?

Ukraine has filed an application in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Russia of falsely claiming that "acts of genocide have occurred in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of Ukraine".

Probable Question

The world Institutions have failed to uphold a rules-based order in the contemporary world. Critically Analyze

About The International Court of Justice

  •  Established in 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations; the ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). 
  • The ICJ is the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), which was brought into being through, and by, the League of Nations.
    • After World War II, the League of Nations and PCIJ were replaced by the United Nations and ICJ respectively.
  • Headquarters: The Peace Palace, Hague. 
  • Role: 
    • In accordance with international law, to settle legal disputes submitted to it by States. 
    •  To give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.
  • Official Languages: English and French are the ICJ’s official languages.
  • Membership: All members of the UN are automatically parties to the ICJ statute, but this does not automatically give the ICJ jurisdiction over disputes involving them.
  • It is the only one of the six principal organs of the UN that is not located in New York City. 
  • The judges of the court are assisted by a Registry, the administrative organ of the ICJ. 

Also read: How to Prepare International Relations for UPSC CSE


  • The ICJ gets jurisdiction only if both parties(States) assign consent to it.
  • The judgment of the ICJ is final and technically binding on the parties to a case.
  • There is no provision of appeal; it can, at the most, be subject to interpretation or, upon the discovery of a new fact, revision.
  • However, the ICJ has no way to ensure compliance of its orders, and its authority is derived from the willingness of countries to abide by them.
  • The Court has no jurisdiction to deal with applications from individuals, non-governmental organizations, corporations, or any other private entity.

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Composition of ICJ

  • The ICJ has 15 judges elected for nine-year terms by the UN General Assembly and Security Council, who vote simultaneously but separately. 
    • To be elected, a candidate must receive a majority of the votes in both bodies.
  • Elections are held in New York during the autumn session of the United Nations General Assembly, and the elected judges enter office on February 6 of the subsequent year. 
  • A third of the court is elected every three years. 
  • The judges elected at the triennial election commence their term of office on February 6 of the following year.
    •  Judges are eligible for re-election.
  • The President and Vice-president of the ICJ are elected for three-year terms by secret ballot.
  • Regional Representation: It is mandated that three judges should be from Africa, two from Latin America and the Caribbean, three from Asia, five from Western Europe and other states, and two from Eastern Europe.
  • Safeguarding Independence: In order to keep the ICJ insulated from political influence, it is enshrined in the Charter that no judge can be dismissed, unless in the unanimous opinion of all peers, he is deemed to no longer fulfill the required conditions. However, this has never happened in the 72-year history of the ICJ.
  • India’s Representation at ICJ:
    • Four Indians have been members of the ICJ so far are: Dalveer Bhandari, R S Pathak, Nagendra Singh, and Sir Benegal Rau.

Limitations of ICJ

  • The UN Security Council is authorized by Chapter XIV of the United Nations Charter to enforce Court rulings, but enforcement is subject to veto by permanent members of the Security Council.
  • The International Court of Justice has no jurisdiction to try individuals accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity. As it is not a criminal court, it does not have a prosecutor ability to initiate proceedings.
  • The Court is not a Supreme Court to which national courts can turn; it does not act as a court of last resort for individuals. 
    • Nor is it an appeal court for any international tribunal. It can, however, rule on the validity of arbitral awards.

Where does India stand vis-a-vis dispute resolution at ICJ?

  • In September 1974, India declared the matters over which it accepts the jurisdiction of the ICJ. 
  • Among the matters over which India does not accept ICJ jurisdiction are: “disputes with the government of any State which is or has been a Member of the Commonwealth of Nations”, and “disputes relating to or connected with facts or situations of hostilities, armed conflicts, individual or collective actions taken in self-defence”.
  •  The declaration, which includes other exceptions as well, has been ratified by Parliament.
India’s Cases at the ICJ
India has been a party to a case at the ICJ on six occasions, four of which have involved Pakistan. They are: 
Right of Passage over Indian Territory (Portugal v. India, culminated 1960);
Appeal Relating to the Jurisdiction of the ICAO Council (India v. Pakistan, culminated in 1972);
Trial of Pakistani Prisoners of War (Pakistan v. India, culminated in 1973); 
Aerial Incident of 10 August 1999 (Pakistan v. India, culminated in 2000); 
Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament (Marshall Islands v. India, culminated in 2016); 
Kulbhushan Jadhav (India v. Pakistan, culminated in 2019).

News Source: The Indian Express

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