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.
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.