Application of International Law In The Municipal Sphere

International laws are very complex in nature as well as very vague also a wide area to cover. First of all, we need to understand international law and municipal laws separately. We will also conclude from this article that international law is a very essential party of the same legal order as municipal law, and at the same time can be more superior to it, and can be regarded as incorporated in municipal law.


International law is basically the customary laws and treaties which are legally binding by the states are interrelated to each other.

In a very famous case of R v Keyn, the Chief Justice specially defined the International law- “The Law of Nation is that collection of usages which civilised states have agreed to observe in their dealing with another”[1]

As under Article 38 of the statute of the International Court of Justice sets some of the sources for the International law i.e. international conventions, custom, the general principles of law and the judicial decisions.


Municipal laws basically govern the domestic aspect of government and deals with the various issues between the individual the administrative apparatus. It includes law at various level, national state and regional level.


Monism is basically a part of the same body of knowledge i.e. law. Monists consider that the internal and international legal system together forms a unity. According to them, international law and municipal law works in the same sphere and always connected with a similar subject matter and hence can always come into dispute. But, if there will be any conflict arises between them then international law will always prevail. According to Kelsen’s rule, the basic source of validity of law derived from the ‘Grundnorm’ of international law.


As we know that international law is applied between the different countries and only to the subject-matter of the international sphere. It looks like they don’t have any relationship between them because they are two different legal bodies working on their own sphere but it’s not as it looks like. From the starting, only the problem of the relationship between these two laws are very controversial and always in conflicts and in the questions of legal theory. But originally, these two are the matter of theoretical importance i.e. whether both laws are a part of universal legal order or they have a different system of law.  As municipal law have the authority from the state itself and the international law is totally dependent on the common will of the state for its prime authority.


In the case of State of West Bengal v Kesoram Industries Ltd.[2] This was a 5 judge constitutional bench—

The Supreme Court observed that—

“It is true that the doctrine of Monism as prevailing the European Countries does not prevail in India. The doctrine of Dualism is applicable. But, where the municipal law does not limit the extent of the statue, even in India is not a signatory to the relevant International Treaty or covenant, the Supreme Court in a large number of cases interpreted the Statues keeping in view the same”.

In another case of Civil Rights Vigilance Committee S.L.R.C. College of Law Bangalore v Union of India and others,[3] in this case the High Court of Karnataka observed that—

“To understand international law it is necessary to appreciate its close relationship to the internal law of states, or as lawyers say, the municipal law of states; for it is increasingly penetrating that sphere….. there are, broadly two different methods by which precepts of international law are applied in the domestic courts of a state. By the first method, it is accepted that international law is per se a part of the law of the land and that the domestic court, therefore, in an appropriate case, applied international law directly.”


Under Article 51, 73, 245 & 246 in the constitution of India has given the consideration to ‘INTERNATIONAL LAW’. Article 51 has especially mentioned the treaty obligation but at the same time Art. 51 does not give clear guidance regarding the position of International Laws in India as well as relationship.


[1] Pitt Cobbett definition of International law.

[2] M. Moran,’Authority Influence and Persuasion; Baker, Charter values and the puzzle of the Method ‘ in D. Dyzenhaus (ed). The Unity of public law, Heart publishing, Oxford 2000, pp 389-430.

[3] AIR 1983 Kar. 85 at para 13. Emphasis supplied.

This article is authored by Sneha, Second-Year, B.A. LL.B student at Christ Academy Institute of Law, Bangalore

Also Read – The Duty of Humanitarian Intervention by Military Force in International Law

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