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Report No. 151

7.3. Committee on Admiralty Jurisdiction.-

The Committee noted that under the English Admiralty Act of 1861 which formed the foundation for the jurisdiction of Indian Courts, the Courts had jurisdiction in Admiralty only in respect of-

(a) claims for building, equipping or repairing of ships;

(b) claims for necessaries supplied to a ship;

(c) claims for damage to cargo imported into a Port;

(d) claims for damage done by a ship;

(e) claims as to ownership, employment and earnings;

(f) salvage;

(g) claims for wages and disbursements by the Master of a ship; and

(h) matters arising out of mortgages.

It noted that, in maritime matters, a claimant is often tempted to seek relief not merely against the owner of a ship but also to seek, very often, relief by way of arrest of a ship as that is the most effective means by which claims as well as maritime liens and mortgages, could be enforced. Attempts were made in the past to enter into international conventions on maritime liens and mortgages and on the arrest of sea going ships1. But they were unsuccessful. A fresh attempt was being made by the 1M02 and the UNCTAD3 in consultation with the CMI4 but considerable time was bound to elapse before a new convention is adopted and ratified by the required number of countries to bring it into force.

In the meantime, many countries had adopted their own laws to govern maritime liens and claims. Even in England, fresh legislation had been enacted, but India was following the archaic British Law as adumbrated in the Admiralty Act of 1861. This had to be changed. It was essential to enlarge the scope of legislation to cover claims pertaining to oil pollution, damages, loss of life, personal injury, towage of ship, pilotage of ship, port dues, disbursements made by shipowners and agents of ships, general average, bottomry bonds, forfeiture or condemnation of ships or cargo and other matters.

It was also necessary to provide for exercise of jurisdiction in rem and in personam and also provisions enabling the arrest not only of the ship that causes damage but also of a "sister-ship", i.e. a ship under the beneficial ownership of the same owner. There was also necessity to lay down legal provisions regarding priorities of the claims that would arise for settlement out of the sale proceeds of a ship, in particular a provision for priority (to some extent) of crew's wages over all other claims against the ship except those of salvage. It was also necessary to cover the claims of owners, whether resident in India or abroad, and also mortgages and charges, whether registered or not and whether created in India or abroad. Some other important provisions proposed were:

(1) As Indian ships are under the full control of the Government of India under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, no arrest of an Indian ship should be effected unless at least six days' notice was given to the owner and he failed to provide security to the court to cover the claim;

(2) Interests of third parties who may have claims should be protected by giving 90 days' notice in newspapers;

(3) Once the ship is sold by orders of court, the purchaser will get a title to it free from all encumbrances with no liability in respect of the claims;

(4) The courts should be empowered to lay down the inter se priority as between mortgages and maritime liens;

(5) The provisions of a notice, where a suit is filed against a foreign ship, for notice to the counsel/mission of the foreign country in India. Taking into consideration these aspects and deriving the benefit of legislation that had been enacted in this regard in U.K., Singapore and other common law countries, the Committee drafted its Admiralty Act of India.

1. These Conventions were adopted in 1926 and 1952 respectively, but were not ratified.

2. International Maritime Organisation.

3. United Nations.

4. Committee Maritime International.

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