National Iranian Gas Corporation v Pipeline Services

JurisdictionFrance
CourtCourt of Cassation (France)
France, Court of Cassation (First Civil Chamber).

(Camille Bernard, President; Lemontey, Rapporteur; Dontenwille, Advocate-General)

National Iranian Gas Corporation
and
Pipeline Services and Another

State immunity Jurisdictional immunity State-owned corporation National Iranian Gas Corporation Claim by private company for contractual payment for gas pipeline protection system Whether State-owned corporation entitled to jurisdictional immunity Whether any material distinction between sovereign activity and performance of public service The law of France

Summary: The facts:In 1978 the French company Pipeline Services (PLS) concluded a contract, subject to Iranian law, with the National Iranian Gas Corporation (NIGC) for the installation of a protection system for an oil pipeline connecting two Iranian cities. PLS instituted proceedings before the French courts for payment under the contract. NIGC failed to enter an appearance, pleading the lack of jurisdiction of the French courts. The Court of Appeal of Versailles rejected the plea of immunity, holding that neither the fact that there were constituent links between the Iranian State and NIGC, nor the fact that NIGC performed a public service, with which PLS was associated, prevented the contract at issue from being classified as a public works contract subject to the ordinary law rather than a sovereign act. NIGC appealed to the Court of Cassation.

Held:The appeal was allowed.

Foreign States, as well as bodies acting under their instructions or on their behalf, enjoyed jurisdictional immunity not only for acts of sovereign power (puissance publique) but also for acts performed in the interests of a public service.

The following is the text of the judgment of the Court:

On the five parts of the first ground of appeal

The Court has considered the principle of the jurisdictional immunity of States.

Following a call for tenders, the French company Pipeline Services (PLS) concluded a contract on 3 July 1978 with the National Iranian Gas Corporation (NIGC). The contract was subject to Iranian law and concerned the supply and installation of a system for cathodic protection of gas pipelines between two cities in Iran. PLS instituted proceedings before the [French] Tribunal de commerce against NIGC, as the contracting authority, for payment of the price of the works. NIGC did not enter an appearance.

NIGC pleaded the lack of jurisdiction of the French courts. In...

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