Admiralty Jurisdiction Current Affairs

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Parliament passes The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016

Parliament has passed The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016. Admiralty laws deal with cases of accidents in navigable waters or involve contracts related to commerce on such waters.

The Bill seeks to upgrade existing laws related to civil matters of admiralty jurisdiction of courts, maritime claims, arrest and detention of ships. It repeals laws such as the Admiralty Court Act, 1861, Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890.

Features of the Bill

The bill confers admiralty jurisdiction on High Courts located in coastal states of India, thus extending their upto territorial waters. It empowers central government to extend the jurisdiction of these High Courts. Under the earlier laws enacted during the colonial era, the admiralty was only by the High Courts of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.

The bill now extends the provisions of admiralty jurisdiction to every vessel irrespective of place of domicile or residence of owner. It does not apply to naval auxiliary, warships and vessels used for non-commercial purposes.

It empowers High Courts to exercise jurisdiction on maritime claims arising out of conditions such as disputes regarding ownership of a vessel, mortgage on a vessel, construction, repair, or conversion of the vessel, disputes between co-owners of a vessel regarding employment or earnings of the vessel, disputes arising out of the sale of a vessel, and environmental damage caused by the vessel, etc.

Background

India is a leading maritime nation and maritime transportation caters to about 95% of its merchandise trade volume. However, the admiralty jurisdiction of Indian courts under the present statutory framework flow from laws enacted in the British era. The repealing of five archaic admiralty statutes is in line with the Union Government’s commitment to do away with archaic laws which are hindering efficient governance.

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Lok Sabha passes Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016

The Lok Sabha has passed the Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016.

The Bill aims to establish uniform legal framework by consolidating the existing laws relating to admiralty jurisdiction of courts, admiralty proceedings on maritime claims, arrest of vessels and related issues.

It also aims to repeal five obsolete British statutes statutes (laws) on admiralty jurisdiction in civil matters which are 126 to 177 years old and were hindering efficient governance.

The five laws are Admiralty Court Act, 1840; Admiralty Court Act, 1861; Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890; Colonial Courts of Admiralty (India) Act, 1891; and Provisions of the Letters Patent, 1865.

Salient Features of Admirability Bill, 2016
  • It confers admiralty jurisdiction on High Courts located in coastal states of India, thus extending their jurisdictions upto territorial waters.
  • The jurisdiction will be extendable by the Union Government notification upto exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or any other maritime zone or islands constituting part of India.
  • It applies to every vessel irrespective of place of domicile or residence of owner. It does not apply to naval auxiliary, warships and vessels used for non-commercial purposes.
  • Inland vessels and vessels under construction are excluded from its application. But it empowers Union Government to make it applicable to these vessels also by a notification.
  • It lists the jurisdiction for adjudicating on a set of maritime claims. A vessel can be arrested in certain circumstances in order to ensure security against a maritime claim.
  • It also provides for prioritization of maritime claims and maritime liens while providing protection to owners, operators, charterers, crew members and seafarers at the same time.

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