The Concept of Territorial Jurisdiction

A nation may be said to consist of its territory, its people, and its laws. The territory is the only part which is of certain durability.

– Abraham Lincoln.

The capacity of the court to take account of any disputes submitted to it is called jurisdiction. Thus, without a specific jurisdiction, the court will not possess the prowess to decide on a particular dispute. The jurisdiction of the court is divided as four parts, named as international jurisdiction, qualitative jurisdiction, value jurisdiction, and local (territorial) jurisdiction. The laws of international jurisdiction of the court show up when there are suits filed against the foreigner who is not known as a resident. Although the courts have no jurisdiction to consider the original lawsuit, the summary and provisional actions correlated to the execution cases within the state’s territory comes within this jurisdiction. Qualitative jurisdiction expounds the jurisdiction among the partial and the plenary departments associated with the matter. It includes the distribution of jurisdiction between the ordinary courts and the summary courts and the jurisdiction under different stages of litigation. In the value jurisdiction, based on the case’s value, the law determines the jurisdiction among the partial and plenary departments. A court’s power to hold the parties together to the action, which determines the scope of federal and state court power, is termed as Territorial jurisdiction. The court’s territorial jurisdiction is determined by the residence of the defendant, the place of the dispute, and the option of the plaintiff in some instances.

When it comes to the UAE laws, the legal system follows civil rules. Federal Law Number 11 of 1992 on Civil Procedure Law and the Federal Law Number 35 of 1992 regarding the criminal procedure law governs the jurisdiction. UAE comprises seven Emirates, and each Emirate has its courts. It is also divided into the Emirate system, which has their court system are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Ras Al Khaimah. The local courts, which are also a part of the Federal Court System, are the other Emirates of Sharjah, Fujairah, Umm al-Quwain, and Ajman. Although Federal Court is used only in limited scenarios, Abu Dhabi has both local and federal courts, making it extraordinary from others. The jurisdiction of the local UAE courts is defined under section 3 of the UAE Civil Procedures Law. Let’s look more into the concept of territorial jurisdiction.


Legal Overview

The fundamental rule under Federal Law, which is correlated with the state courts’ territorial jurisdiction, is that their respective domicile determines the defendant’s authority. Article 31(1) of the Civil Procedure Law has mentioned the determination of the territorial jurisdiction of the defendant. It expounds that the jurisdiction areas include the domicile of the defendant (permanent and continuous residence). The term domicile means the defendant’s home that all the information is redirected to the place which the defendant resides. If the defendant doesn’t have a domicile, then the jurisdiction will permit the court whose jurisdiction area consists of the residence address contrary to the domicile. The plaintiff could file a lawsuit against the defendant in the courts whose jurisdiction includes the residence address or the work address. Both of the jurisdiction is valid as there is no determining domicile for the defendant.



There are several exceptions in the rule that originated due to the plaintiff’s condition or content. The exceptions related to the condition of the plaintiff: The jurisdiction of the court where the damage has occurred will also possess territorial jurisdiction. Thus, the plaintiff has the right to file a lawsuit claiming compensation against the defendant in the court jurisdiction of the defendant’s domicile or the area of the jurisdiction where the damage occurred. Concerning the commercial disputes, the plaintiff has the right to file the lawsuit against the defendant in the territorial jurisdictions, including the defendant’s domicile, area of the lawsuit, or agreement concluded, or it could be executed in whole or in part in the court. The plaintiff could choose any one of the domiciles of defendants as the jurisdiction to file the lawsuit in the court if there is more than one defendant.

The exceptions related to the content of the case are as follows: The territorial jurisdiction of the real estate and the possessory lawsuits will be the jurisdiction of the property in suit. That is if there is any dispute arising from the dispute over the right to ownership or recovering possession related to that will comes under the territorial jurisdiction of the property, subject, or lawsuit. Any lawsuits filed corresponding to personal right over the property or termination of the sale contract of the property; the jurisdiction will be the area of the dispute, domicile of the defendant, or the jurisdiction where the lawsuit Is filed. In any cases relating to moral rights, the court’s jurisdiction is granted as the court near the company’s head office.


Case Study

On 21 January 1990, the Federal Supreme Court considered the independent judicial authority in Dubai in the appeal of Federal Supreme Court Appeal No. 137 of the judicial year 11. It expounds that, Dubai has maintained its judicial authority over its local courts, as stated in Article 104 of the constitution. Inside the Emirate of Dubai territory, these courts are accordingly able to hear their cases, and their decisions will not put through any challenges before the Federal Courts. The allotment of proficiency on court cases between the Federal Courts and the local courts is an issue of the functional state that expounds the capability of the other judicial bodies of the UAE related to public policy. There are some basic principles that the stressed by all the local or territory courts in the UAE. The principles comprise Article 31(5) of Civil Procedure Law. This provision expounds that in certain instances, detailed in Article 32 & 34 to 39, which involves property issues, insurance claims, or matters related to the inheritance. Article 31(5) suggests that the parties can agree on the jurisdiction of their choice. Still, there is a limitation when it interacts with Article 104 of the constitution. Whoever is doing business in the UAE should be fully aware of the effectiveness of any clause they place in their contract. It could only be done with an in-depth examination of the specific agreement and a perfect understanding of the correlation of various jurisdictions and judicial authorities in the UAE. And when it comes to commercial matters, if the court has jurisdiction under the Civil Procedure Law, the parties are bound to select the local court.