JURISDICTION OF ADMIRALTY COURTS

Author: Harshita Joshi, BBA LL.B, 2nd Year, Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal This article has been written by the author while pursuing the internship programme with us. Introduction An Admiralty Court is a tribunal . Before the Admiralty(Settlement and Maritime Claims) Act,2017, there was no such statutory definition for the same, it varies from country to country . Formerly Admiralty Courts were altogether a separate part of the court system, whereas in modern times these cases are allotted within the regular court system. Admiralty law incorporates various subject matters like ship accidents and injuries , contracts that are involved in maritime, various commerce transactions , if any one violates the rules of sea and various other crimes . Fundamentally Admiralty Courts hear an extensive range of cases incorporating contracts, torts, injuries, carriage of goods through sea, financing of ships, laws of ownership including registration of ships and offences related to Maritime cases. All these concerned matters which are under the Admiralty courts are covered by various legislations in India , the basis of which is based on the colonial British legislations and being amended from time to time by Indian Parliament . Before going in much detail first it is pertinent to understand the origin of Admiralty Courts. The Admiralty Jurisdiction for better understanding can be referred to Section 35 of Admiralty Courts Act, 1861 which stated that the jurisdiction endowed with High Courts of Admiralty may be exercised either by proceedings in rem and proceeding in personam[1]. Section 2(a) and section 3 of Admiralty (Settlement and Maritime Claims) Act, 2017 gives the codified definition of Admiralty jurisdiction. Historical Provisions The Admiralty Courts were introduced by the colonial British . Earlier the Lord High Admirals were in charge as the sole Maritime authorities but later on separate courts were set up to handle cases related to maritime. After setting these separate courts there were various ongoing disputes between Courts of Common Law and Courts of Admiralty. In consequence of which these courts lost their importance in the 17th and 18th century. After these courts vanished, in 1840 British legislature approved Admiralty Courts Act . The Act of 1840 and 1861, led to the growth of British Maritime commerce and this amplification of Admiralty courts in England was made applicable in India after 1862 and this led to the development of Admiralty Courts in India . Whereby in 1890[2] The British legislature sanctioned Colonial Acts of Admiralty Act, 1890, providing British India to declare certain Courts as Admiralty Courts which have the admiralty jurisdiction as availed by the Admiralty Court in England[3]. Indian Parliament with reference to the Act of 1891, passed Colonial Courts of Admiralty(India)Act. The dispute concerning jurisdiction of Admiralty Courts can be better understood by M.V. Elizabeth v. Harwan Investments and Trading Pvt. Ltd.[4], where jurisdiction was in question before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The vessel named Elizabeth is of a foreign company , doing their business in Greece . The exclusive contention of Petitioner was that any high court of India lacked jurisdiction in this case . Further on appeal to the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that they enacted the Supreme Court Act 1861. International Conventions International conventions are vital for Admiralty laws because admiralty laws are administered both at municipal level as well as international level . For instance matters like registration of ships are governed by Municipal Laws of Maritime of the respective country whereas matters like commerce are regulated by International law. The permanent International Conference was recognized in 1889. There are various Maritime Conventions and protocols to which India is a certifier. Two of them were- ● International Convention on law for Sea, 1994[5]- In this the coastal state is free to exercise their jurisdiction on foreign merchant ships and persons that enter their waters.[6] Whereas coastal states are also granted jurisdiction of foreign merchant ships lying in their water and hence these ships can be arrested and accordingly the state can proceed with their proceedings as per the domestic law or arrest convention. To which India ratified this in 1995. ● International Convention relating to Bill of Lading ,1924(Hague Rules)[7] – India did not ratify this convention because this requires that bills of lading be also made applicable to carriage of goods which was not acceptable in India. Admiralty Laws in India In 2005, the Indian Government promulgate a draft Bill[8],2005 which aims to repeal the obsolete law of British legislations and bring conclusive law to claim. and There are various legislations related to the Maritime Law which is applicable in India, some of those are, Indian Merchant Shipping Act 1958, Indian Good of Carriage Act , 1925, the Maritime Insurance Act , 1963[9], etc. Focusing on Indian Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, this Act includes provisions related to registration and procedure for Indian Ships[10],regulations for various certifications, ownership of the Indian vessels, regulations related to navigation and various types of ships[11]etc. Apart from this the Act deals with various safety and load provisions[12], accidents at sea[13], liability etc. In the case of Shanmughavilas Cashew Industries[14]The question related to applicability of MAS for foreign vessels is examined for which SC held that the Indian Parliament has no authority to legislate for foreign vessels. Whereas in the case of Sabeeha Faikage and ors. v. UOI[15] , the SC recommended certain loopholes and directed authorities to take immediate steps for MSA and various rules in 2005. The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and settlement of MaritimeClaims )Act, 2017 The Admiralty Jurisdiction Act replaces and hence repeals various laws of the Admiralty Jurisdiction which was passed by British during the 1800s, related to the jurisdiction of High Courts. This Act applies to all ships , vessels and boats that are in the Indian water territory which excludes inland vessels and vessels under construction or that are used for non-commercial purpose. At the same time , according to the central government this Act does not apply to the foreign vessels for non-commercial purposes. Prior to the validation of this Act, only Bombay , Madras and Calcutta High Courts have jurisdiction but now all the High of the coastal areas can exercise jurisdiction relating to this matter . The central government by notification can enter the jurisdiction of various High Courts of that coastal areas. Despite this Act was the first step towards the codification of the Admiralty Act in India but there are certain issues with this act- ● This Act is facing issue regarding the retrospective application of the Act under section 17(2)[16],.which states that if any proceeding is pending in any High Court that is related to before the commencement of this act , has to be adjudicated by this new act only. ● Another issue is that whether dumb barge can be arrested or not and also related to arrest of Indian vessels In spite of this Admiralty jurisdiction Act is the most important Act which clearly defines the Admiralty of Indian Courts which was quite unambiguous earlier. Conclusion There with such a long journey India is somewhat at a better place after taking the foremost step regarding the codification of the Maritime Act , 2017 which obsolete the out-dated colonial legislation and provides us with more clear legislation . A codified law is easier to apply than the earlier laws. All the enactments say The Admiralty Courts Act, 1840 , Admiralty Courts Act 1861, the Colonel Court of Admiralty Act, 1890, Colonial Courts of Admiralty(India) Act , 1891 and according to section 17[17] of this Act, it was provided that there is no retrospective application and hence any cases become the commencement of this Act , is wholly be legislated by this Act only. This Act also provide for power to remove difficulties within three years of commencement of this Act[18] , to the Central Government in case of necessity provided that that the said order shall be in consistent with his Act. The interesting part is how courts will interpret the new laws and solve the difficulties related to cases. References: [1] Section 35 of the Admiralty Courts Act, 1861, Vict. C.10

[2] 1890 Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act,(53, 54, Victoria Chapter 27) [3] Nishaan Shetty , Admiralty Law in India-A historical Perspective, 3 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LAW AND LEGAL JURISPRUDENCE STUDIES. 200, 2348-8212 [4] M.V. Elizabeth and ors. v. Harwan Investment and Trading. 1993 AIR 1014

[5] International Journal of Current Research Vol. 7, Issue, 07, pp.18034-18037, July, 2015

[6] UNCLOS-111

[7] K.N. Singh, Law Commission of India One Hundred and Fifty First Report on Admiralty Jurisdiction, 17 August(1994)

[8] Admiralty Bill, 2005 [9] The major Port of Trusts Acr, 1963

[10] Merchant Shipping Act,1925 , Part(V) [11] MSA,1925, Part(XI)

[12] MSA, 1925, Part(IX)

[13] MSA, 1925, Part(X)

[14] British India Steam Navigation Company Co. Ltd. vs. Shanmughavilas Cashew Industries , (1990 )3 , SCC 481 [15] Sabeeha Faikage nd ors. V. UOI , (2013) 1, SCC 262

[16] Section 17(2) ,The (Admiralty Jurisdiction and settlement claims)Act , 2017 [17] Section 17 , The (Admiralty Jurisdiction and settlement claims)Act , 2017 [18] Section 18, The (Admiralty Jurisdiction and settlement claims)Act, 2017 Disclaimer: Views and opinions as expressed in the Research Articles are solely of the author and any member of the Editorial team or the Founder, Co-Founder or other members of the website shall not be liable for the same.

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