This has different meanings in the legal context.  Jurisdiction is an important consideration in (commercial) contracts and also when initiating court proceedings. The principle is also important in international law.

Jurisdiction (as in power/authority)

A court or tribunal must have the power/authority to hear or decide a case and give a particular order.

A tribunal or court hearing and determining a matter on its merits, must be competent to do so. (Halsbury’s Laws of England; Volume 12A (2015) paragraph 1612). Disputes must be brought before the proper court/tribunal with authority to hear the particular case and grant the required relief or orders; or objections to jurisdiction can be made before the start of a matter.  If a court lacks jurisdiction, its judgment and orders are of no legal consequence (Leacock v Griffith (2017) CCJ 1 (AJ).

A court’s/tribunal’s authority may be outlined in statute and it can arise in a monetary limit or other stipulations in relation to the matters that can be brought before it.

In Trinidad & Tobago (T&T), a Magistrate and the Magistrates’ Court are creatures of statute and they have to operate within those confines (see Sect. 6, Summary Courts Act).  In T&T, the Petty Civil Courts Act currently provides for a monetary limit of under $50,000, for a petty civil case to be brought before the Magistrates’ Court – Petty Civil Court. While civil claims above $50,000 have to be brought in the High Court.

Any power exercised outside that statutory power is unlawful (ex parte World Development Movement (1995) 1AER 611).  Additionally, “…an order made by a court of unlimited jurisdiction… must be obeyed unless or until it has been set aside by the court.” (Isaacs v Robertson PCA No. 2 of 1983).

Jurisdiction (as in country/territory)

Court disputes or alternative dispute resolution hearings must be conducted in the proper country/territory.

In contracts, parties include jurisdiction clauses so that in the event of litigation or dispute resolution; parties are clear as to where these proceedings must be initiated. The parties may even identify the tribunal or court depending on the nature of the dispute. If proceedings are brought in the wrong jurisdiction, a party may be able to invoke the principle of forum non conveniens (not the convenient forum).

Jurisdiction in international law

In international law jurisdiction is exercised on the grounds of a number of principles – territorial, nationality, protective, passive personality and universality principles.