Elucidate the structure and mandate of International Court of Justice.

The International Court of Justice is the judicial organ of the United Nations organisation. It is commonly referred as “World Court”. It is seated in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. It settles legal disputes between member states and gives advisory opinions to authorized UN organs and specialized agencies.
It comprises of a 15 judge panel elected by the General Assembly and Security Council for nine-year terms. No two judges may be nationals of the same country. There is an informal understanding that the seats will be distributed by geographic regions so that there are five seats for Western countries, three for African states, two for Eastern European states, three for Asian states and two for Latin American and Caribbean states. When deciding cases, the court applies international law as summarized in Article 38 of the ICJ Statute.
All 193 UN members are automatically parties to the court’s statute. The issue of mandate is considered in the three types of ICJ cases: contentious issues, incidental jurisdiction, and advisory opinions

  • In contentious cases ICJ provides for a binding ruling between states that agree to submit to the ruling of the court. Only statesmay be parties in contentious cases. Jurisdiction is often a crucial question for the court in contentious cases. The key principle is that the ICJ has jurisdiction only on the basis of consent of the parties.
  • Until rendering a final judgment, the court has competence to order interim measures for the protection of the rights of a party to a dispute under Incidental jurisdiction
  • An advisory opinion is a function of the court open only to specified United Nations bodies and agencies. 

The forum was recently in news in India because Justice Dalveer Bhandari re-elected as a judge to ICJ. The election was a hard fought battle. Eleven rounds of balloting were held with Justice Bhandari winning in the General Assembly and UK candidate Greenwood winning in the Security Council vote. The triumph of Justice Bhandari shows the great amount of support India enjoys in the world across geographical regions. In a rare phenomenon, the victory showed the will of general assembly prevailing over the Security Council.


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