Rajya Sabha passed the Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill on Monday. The bill proposes to consolidate the existing laws on civil matters of admiralty jurisdiction of courts, admiralty proceedings on maritime claims, and arrest of ships.
It repeals laws such as the Admiralty Court Act, 1861, the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890.
Moving the bill for consideration and passage, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping Mansukh L Mandaviya said the maritime admiralty laws in India remain old and need to be changed in line with the changes effected globally.
He said the government was attempting to bring clarity in law through the proposed legislation.
Highlighting the importance of maritime trade, the minister said 95 per cent of the overall exports and imports from India are through the maritime route and 33,000 ships come to the country’s shores every year.
Mandaviya said the government was also considering developing new ports in West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka.
As per the bill, High Courts can exercise jurisdiction on maritime claims arising out of conditions including disputes regarding ownership of a vessel and construction, repair, or conversion of the vessel. Matters relating to environmental damage caused by the vessels can also be taken up.
Members expressed concern over the burden on regular courts due to maritime claims.
Speaking in favour of the Bill Congress member Vivek Tankha welcomed the provision to include High Courts in coastal States, in addition to the Madras, Bombay and Calcutta High Courts.
“The bill is giving lesser priority for loss of life than the loss of wages. This has to be reconsidered, he says. There is no mechanism in the Bill for pre-litigation settlement,” Tankha said.
CPI’s D. Raja raised the issue of a recently passed Sri Lankan law that would affect Indian fishermen. He says the Katchatheevu agreement will have to be re-negotiated.
“Do we follow uniformity with international practices?” Raja asked.