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Parliament on Monday passed a bill that seeks to consolidate the existing laws on the jurisdiction of courts on civil admiralty matters, or cases of maritime accidents or contracts related to maritime commerce, proceedings on maritime claims, and seizure of ships with the Rajya Sabha assenting to the legislation.
The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2017, moved by Minister of State for Shipping Mansukh Lal Mandaviya, repeals laws such as the Admiralty Court Act, 1861 and the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890.
It has already been passed by the Lok Sabha.
The jurisdiction with respect to maritime claims under the Bill will vest with the respective High Courts and will extend up to the territorial waters of their respective jurisdictions. The bill also provides for central government extending their jurisdiction.
Currently, admiralty jurisdiction applies to the Bombay, Calcutta and Madras High Courts and the bill further extends this to the Karnataka, Gujarat, Odisha, Kerala, Hyderabad High Courts and any other High Court notified by the central government.
The high courts may exercise jurisdiction on maritime claims arising out of disputes regarding ownership of a vessel, disputes between co-owners of a vessel regarding employment or earnings of the vessel, construction, repair, or conversion of the vessel, disputes arising out of the sale of a vessel and environmental damage caused by the vessel, among other things.
While determining maritime claims under the specified conditions, the courts may settle any outstanding accounts between parties with regard to the vessel. They may also direct that the vessel or a share of it be sold. With regard to a sale, courts may determine the title to the proceeds of such sale.
Any judgments made by a single judge of a high court can be appealed against to a division bench of the high court concerned.
The Supreme Court may, on application by any party, transfer an admiralty proceeding at any stage from one high court to any other high court.