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Report No. 62

1B.14. International law-territorial waters.-

So far as the application of a law to territorial waters is concerned, there is no serious difficulty from the point of view of international law. By modern doctrine, the jurisdiction of a State to legislate in relation to events occurring within such waters is, in general, undisputed. It was pointed out by an American writer,1 some time ago;

"If the locale of injury is within a sovereign's own waters, it is part of the Anglo-American tradition that the courts of that sovereign-and indeed other courts-will apply his particular version of the maritime law in translating the facts into juristic results."

"If the ship floats in territorial waters, the law of the waters traditionally speaks more loudly than that of the ship2."

Certain restrictions are, no doubt, imposed by conventions as to the exercise of the jurisdiction in relation to ships not registered. But, we need not go into these, as they do not touch legislative competence. It may also be noted that, in India, fortunately, no such controversy has arisen as has arisen in the U.S.A., as to whether a particular event has occurred on "navigable waters" of the U.S.A., or whether it has occurred on State territorial waters. An opinion given by the Law Officers, including the Queen's Advocate, in 1879, quoted in the Debates in the House of Commons on the Shipping Contracts etc. Bil1,3 may be cited.

"A British ship had put into a Spanish port and we thought in this country (England) that the Spanish authorities were behaving very vexatiously in that they were visiting various claims and penalties on the ship because, quite accidentally and without doing any harm to anyone, a quite unimportant matter had been omitted from the manifest of the cargo. Yet the Law Officers of the time reported to the Foreign Secretary in the terms:

"By the Law of Nations every independent Government is the sole judge of the measures which may best suit, promote, or insure its own people, their interests and safety; may open or chose its territory, waters, and harbours; and altogether refuse to admit, or impose what conditions it may deem fit, upon the admission of foreigners and foreign vessels. These conditions may be absurd, vexatious, inconsistent with or contrary to the usage of all other civilized nations; still the Government has the right to impose them, and a foreign Government can only protest against their being imposed."

1. G.H. Robinson Personal Injury in the Maritime Industry, (1930-31), 44 Harvard Law Review 223 (229).

2. See article, "Applicable Law in State Waters", (1964) 27 Temp L.Q. 479, 480.

3. H.C. Debates, Vol. 698 (15 July, 1964), Col. 1243 (Speech of Mr. Charles Fletcher Cooke).



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