Indian Ocean Power Competition

Doctrine of Hot Pursuit


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNCLOS

Mains level : Doctrine of Hot Pursuit


  • The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has apprehended a Pakistani fishing vessel off Gujarat and seized huge cache of narcotic drugs worth ₹600 crore in the international market.
  • During the hot pursuit, the crew threw bags containing suspicious material into the sea.
  • The Coast Guard team, upon boarding the vessel, took the crew into custody and retrieved the material.

Doctrine of Hot Pursuit

  • The doctrine of hot pursuit in international law recognizes the right of a State to pursue a vessel belonging to a foreign State which has violated any law within its territorial boundaries and jurisdiction.
  • The doctrine vests a right to pursue the delinquent vessel outside the territorial limits into the open sea and then can be taken into custody.
  • The fundamental rule of the maritime law states that all vessels have the right to navigate freely on the high seas.
  • Yet, the traditional notion has recognized the doctrine of hot pursuit as an exception to the principles of freedom on the high seas.
  • At a time when smuggling and piracy were rampant, this customary doctrine emerged to empower a coastal state to pursue on to the high seas a vessel that had violated its laws within its waters.
  • This denied the intruding vessel the opportunity to escape punishment by claiming protection under the right of free navigation on the high seas, which had been designed to protect innocent vessels.
  • Importantly, this customary doctrine did not extend to the territorial waters of a foreign state.
  • Decades later, this customary doctrine was codified in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of High Seas.

Hot Pursuit as per UNCLOS

  • The doctrine of maritime hot pursuit is codified in art 111 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  • It recognizes that a vessel, if has committed a violation of the laws of a foreign state while in that state’s sovereign or territorial waters, may be pursued onto the high seas and seized.
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