Centre for Public Policy Research and Civitas Legal Solutions jointly organized the seminar on “ Redefining Admiralty Jurisdiction in India” at Plenary Hall, Indian Law Institute New Delhi on 8 September 2010. The seminar stressed on the importance of updating admiralty laws and making them more responsive to the needs of the industry and conducive for speedy disposal of cases. Indian maritime in tune with international ones like the International Convention on Arrest of Ships, 1999, and International Convention on Maritime Lien and Mortgages, 1993. It was suggested that the issue requires serious and immediate consideration from legislators. The seminar also discussed on the lapsing of Admiralty Bill, 2005. Dr. Francis Julian and Adv V.M Syam Kumar spoke on the occasion. The seminar was attended by policy makers, lawyers, representatives from the maritime industry and law students.
Speakers pointed out that jurisdictional issues relating to sea-going vessels in India are still governed by the Admiralty Court Act, 1861, Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890, or the Colonial Courts of Admiralty (India) Act, 1991; all of which were framed during the erstwhile British rule. Admiralty Jurisdiction in India continues to be a grey area of jurisprudence, in spite of its ancient origin. Although a change in law and the need for new legislation has been advocated since the early days of the First Law Commission, nothing has materialised so far.
The Honourable Supreme Court had expressed its displeasure at the absence of a code of maritime jurisdiction in the decision regarding M.V Elizabeth and Others v. Harwan Investment and Trading Pvt. Ltd. (1991). The Parween Singh Committee studied the issue in 1986 and suggested the framing of a new legislation and separate courts to deal exclusively with admiralty matters. Further, the Thirteenth Law Commission of India, in its 151st report that was placed before the Parliament in August 1995, had pointed out that legislation in admiralty law was imperative; both as a matter of prestige and a necessity. However, the Law Commission was not in favour of separate courts. They instead suggested retaining admiralty jurisdiction with the High Courts themselves.
The maritime sector in India is growing rapidly with the functioning of 12 major ports and about 200 minor ones. It plays a major role in the growth of the Indian economy, as approximately 95 per cent of the country’s trade by volume and 70 per cent by value is transported through the maritime sector. The seminar also created a platform for stakeholders to express their views on the subject