Union Cabinet today gave its approval to the proposal of the shipping ministry for a bill to consolidate existing laws relating to admiralty jurisdiction of courts, arrest of vessels and other issues besides repealing five archaic statutes.
“The Union Cabinet under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval to the proposal of the Ministry of Shipping to enact Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill 2016 and to repeal five archaic admiralty statutes,” the Ministry of Shipping said in a statement.
India is a leading maritime nation and maritime transportation caters to about 95 per cent of its merchandise trade volume but under the present statutory framework, the admiralty jurisdiction of Indian courts flow from laws enacted in the British era.
The Bill consolidates the existing laws relating to admiralty jurisdiction of courts, admiralty proceedings on maritime claims, arrest of vessels and related issues.
“It also repeals five obsolete British statues on admiralty jurisdiction in civil matters, namely, (a) the Admiralty Court Act, 1840 (b) the Admiralty Court Act, 1861, (c) Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890, (d) Colonial Courts of Admiralty (India) Act, 1891, and (e) the provisions of the Letters Patent, 1865 applicable to the admiralty jurisdiction of the Bombay, Calcutta and Madras High Courts,” the statement said.
Admiralty jurisdiction relates to powers of the High Courts in respect of claims associated with transport by sea and navigable waterways. The repealing of five admiralty statutes is in line with the government’s commitment to do away with archaic laws which are hindering efficient governance.
The government said the legislative proposal will fulfil a long-standing demand of the maritime legal fraternity.
The Bill confers admiralty jurisdiction on High Courts located in coastal states of India and this jurisdiction extends upto territorial waters.
The jurisdiction is extendable, by a central government notification, up to exclusive economic zone or any other maritime zone of India or islands constituting part of the territory of India.
The statement said it applies to every vessel irrespective of place of residence or domicile of owner.
“Inland vessels and vessels under construction are excluded from its application but the central government is empowered to make it applicable to these vessels also by a notification if necessary,” it said.
However, it does not apply to warships and naval auxiliary and vessels used for non-commercial purposes.
In order to ensure security against a maritime claim, a vessel can be arrested in certain circumstances, the Bill provides.
The liability in respect of selected maritime claims on a vessel passes on to its new owners by way of maritime liens subject to a stipulated time limit.
The government said in respect of aspects on which provisions are not laid down in the Bill, the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 is applicable.