Admiralty Bill 2016
The Lower House of the Indian Parliament took a historic step of syncing Indian needs to modern times by passing what is known as Admiralty Bill.
When it comes to maritime laws, India still follows the archaic laws laid down by the British during the colonial rule of India. The 2016 Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bills aims towards replacing those old and obsolete laws with something that is more relevant to modern times and those that can deal with court’s admiralty jurisdiction, vessel arrest, maritime claims’ admiralty proceedings and similar issues without interfering with effective governance aim of the government. Hence, the new bill is all about consolidating the old laws and creating a new wireframe network of laws which suit the needs of modern maritime needs of the Republic of India.
Which existing laws are to be repealed?
The Admiralty Bill is seeking repealing of 5 British Statutes that are as old as 126 years to 177 years! Those obsolete statutes are:
- 1840’s Admiralty Court Act.
- 1861’s Admiralty Court Act.
- 1890’s Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act.
- 1891’s Colonial Court of Admiralty (India) Act.
- 1865’s Letters Patent Provisions.
When it comes to civil matters, these 5 obsolete statutes have been found to be massive hindrances in government’s steadfast commitment towards effective governance and hence, the 2016 Admiralty Bill will simply repeal the archaic laws.
Mansukh L. Mandaviya speaks
According to Mansukh L. Mandaviya, when the British ruled India, the nation had only 3 ports that were major. Those were the ports of Madras (now Chennai), Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Bombay (now Mumbai). However, over years, after the end of colonial rule and post-independence, India saw a four-fold increase in its major ports, which now stand at 12. Additionally, there are 205 smaller ports serving the nation’s maritime needs. Mandaviya is the Union Minister who heads the Road Transport & Highways, Fertilizers & Chemicals, Shipping Ministry. It was Mandaviya who moved the bill in the Parliament.
Mandaviya said that the archaic laws empowered only three High Courts – those of Madras, Calcutta and Bombay – to make decisions on matters that related to admiralty. This was the primary reason that was causing hindrance in effective governance.
What’s there in 2016 Admiralty Bill?
Here is what the 2016 Admiralty Bill seeks to change and introduce:
- Coastal states’ High Courts will be given admiralty jurisdiction, which will extend all the way up to territorial waters. Now longer will only three High Courts have admiralty jurisdiction.
- Using a notification, the Union Government can extend jurisdiction to:
- Islands that are part of Republic of India’s territory.
- India’s any maritime zone.
- Exclusive Economic Zone.
- It doesn’t matter where the owner resides or where the domicile of the owner is. The law will become applicable to every single vessel floating on Indian waters.
- Under-construction vessels and inland vessels do not fall in the application. However, the Union Government, if it deems necessary, can extend the application by virtue of a single notice, include these vessels as well.
- Any vessel that is non-commercial, is a naval auxiliary or is a warship will stay out.
- The bill lists a number of maritime claims and the dominion will be for adjudication of those claims.
- Under several circumstances, arrest of a vessel is possible to ensure that the security against naval claims can be maintained.
- For selected maritime claims put forward on a vessel, the responsibility moves on to the new owners of the vessel via maritime liens within specified timeline.
- For those aspects for which the bill has no provisions, 1908’s Civil Procedure Code will be applicable.
Which High Courts will get power?
As of now, Madras High Court, Calcutta High Court and Bombay High Court are the three entities that have the power of making decision with respect to Admiralty. The new law aims towards proliferating the power distribution and brining in the High Courts of Gujarat, Kerala, Hyderabad, Orissa and Karnataka in the loop. The same powers may be given to any other High Court in any state if the Union Government gives a notification.
What else did Mansukh L. Mandaviya say?
Minister Mansukh L. Mandaviya stated that even the Supreme Court holds the opinion that in order to deal with Admiralty cases, domestic laws should be there. According to Madaviya, there are several members in the parliament who had some concerns. However, those concerns will all be taken care of once the new laws are framed and put into effect.
Speaking of Maritime Zone, Mandaviya said that several members sought clarifications about the same and that there are 6 ports that are being currently constructed along with various projects which all belong to the ambitious Sagarmala Project of the Union Government. He also stated that the government will be spending 8 lakh crores for port set up in India and that the bill has provisions for dealing with pollution that ships cause.
As the bill moved through the lower house, concerns came forward. However, the ruling government managed to give satisfactory answers to each and every concern that came up. Upon successful discourse delivered, all parties accepted and passed the bill. Top opposition leaders who embraced the bill were Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury from Indian National Congress who commented that the government took the right decision of repealing obsolete laws and this was necessary because maritime fraternity along with legal fraternity were waiting for this move from a long time. On the other hand, Kalyan Banjeree of West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress also supported the bill, who stated that territorial waters should be outlined and marked using modern technology and so, the new law is always a welcome move.
On this occasion, TRS’s Konda Vishweshwara Reddy came up demanding a separate High Court for the state of Andhra Pradesh. According to Reddy, Hyderabad’s High Court should not be given the burden of resolving disputes related to maritime issues.