The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016 (Download PDF)

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Parliament passed The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016 dealing with cases of accidents in navigable waters or contracts related to commerce on such waters. The Bill upgrades laws related to civil matters of admiralty jurisdiction of courts, maritime claims, arrest, and detention of ships. It repeals Admiralty Court Act, 1861, Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890.

Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims

Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims

Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims

Features of the Bill

  • Confers admiralty jurisdiction on High Courts located in coastal states, thus extending their jurisdiction upto territorial waters.
  • Under the earlier laws, the admiralty was only by the High Courts of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras.
  • Extends the admiralty jurisdiction to every vessel irrespective of place of domicile or residence of owner. Does not apply to naval auxiliary, warships and vessels used for non-commercial purposes.

Background

India a leading maritime nation with 95 % of its merchandise trade volume carried by maritime carriers. Unfortunately, the admiralty jurisdiction of Indian courts was based on British era laws. Hence, the repealing of five archaic admiralty statutes hindering efficient governance.

Details of the Bill

  • Admiralty Jurisdiction: The jurisdiction on maritime claims to vest with the respective High Courts and extending up to the territorial waters of their respective jurisdictions. The central government may extend the jurisdiction of these High Courts. Currently admiralty jurisdiction applies to the Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras High Courts. The Bill further extend this to the High Courts of Karnataka, Gujarat, Orissa, Kerala, Hyderabad, and any other High Court notified by the central government.
  • Maritime Claims: The High Courts may exercise jurisdiction on maritime claims arising out of conditions including

    • Disputes regarding ownership of a vessel
    • Disputes between co-owners of a vessel regarding employment or earnings of the vessel
    • Mortgage on a vessel
    • Construction, repair, or conversion of the vessel
    • Disputes arising out of the sale of a vessel
    • Environmental damage caused by the vessel
  • The Bill defines a vessel as any ship, boat, or sailing vessel which may or may not be mechanically propelled.
  • Priority of Maritime Claims: Following priority is to be given to claims in an admiralty proceeding:

    • Highest priority given to maritime claims.

      • Within maritime claims, the highest priority to claims for wages due
      • This would be followed by claims with regard to loss of life or personal injury in connection with the operation of the vessel
    • Followed by mortgages on the vessel, and all other claims.
    • Jurisdiction Over a Person: Courts may exercise admiralty jurisdiction against a person with regard to maritime claims barring certain cases
    • Arrest of vessel: The courts may order for the arrest of any vessel within their jurisdiction for providing security against a maritime claim.
    • Appeals: Any judgments made by a single Judge of the High Court can be appealed against to a Division Bench of the High Court. Further, the Supreme Court may transfer an admiralty proceeding at any stage from one High Court to any other High Court.
    • Assessors: The central government will appoint a list of assessors qualified and experienced in admiralty and maritime matters. Typically, assessors assist the judges in determining rates and claims in admiralty proceedings.

- Published/Last Modified on: August 24, 2017

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