1982

HL

Buttes Gas & Oil Co. v Hammer [1982] AC 888, 938

Two Californian oil exploration corporations were granted oil concession in the Persian Gulf. One was granted by Umm al Qaiwain and the other by Sharjah. A dispute arose over a rich oil area. Litigation began for alleged slander uttered in London about the disputed area and consequential events. The defences were justification and fair comment, particular of the defences included as ‘facts’ decree of the ruler of Sharjah which extended the limits of his territorial waters. A subsequent claim of sovereignty over the disputed area by UMM al Qaiwain. [non justiciable (lack of jurisdiction because the subject matter), but closely connected to immunity ratione materiae] [State immunity would not have been applied since no state was part on the proceedings]

Applying the doctrine of non justiciability the HL declined to take jurisdiction in a dispute between the two oil companies which would have required it to have ruled, inter alia, on the boundary between the continental shelves of two Persian Gulf States There is a long standing principle of English law which is inherent to the very nature of the judicial process, that municipal courts would not adjudicate on the transactions of foreign states, accordingly where such issues arise in private litigation the court would exercise judicial restrain and abstain from deciding the issues raised; the issues raised were non justiciable and incapable of being entertained by the court