DELHI: Parliament today gave its nod to a bill that seeks to upgrade the law related to maritime claims, arrest and detention of ships and extends jurisdiction of trial to various courts across the country.
The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims), 2017 seeks to repeal laws such as the Admiralty Court Act, 1861, the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890.
The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha by a voice vote. It had been passed by the Lok Sabha in March this year.
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. Investments to the tune of Rs 8 lakh crore are needed in the coming years to generate employment and boost India's shipping industry, the minister said.
The earlier legislations came into force during the colonial era when India had only three major ports — Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. Therefore, at present, matters related to admiralty can be decided only by the High Courts of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, even though there are 12 major ports and 205 minor ports in India.
However, the minister informed that the bill extends this to the High Courts of Karnataka, Gujarat, Orissa, Kerala, Hyderabad and any other High Court notified by the central government.
D Bandopadhyay of Trinamool Congress, while supporting the bill, said it is important to look into environmental aspects and see that speedy action is taken in case of maritime accidents releasing toxins.
Kahkashan Perween of the JD(U) also supported the bill, saying it will strengthen laws related to maritime claims. K Somaprasad of the CPI(M) said the passage of the bill will fulfill a long-standing demand of the legal maritime community.
A V Singh Deo of the BJD said it was a welcome legislation as there are 12 major ports and 205 minor ports in the country at present but only three High Courts tasked with civil matters of admiralty jurisdiction. V Vijayasai Reddy of the YSRCP also extended his support to the bill, saying its enactment was long overdue.
D Raja of the CPI said the bill was needed as India was an emerging maritime superpower.