The Admiralty Bill 2017 – An Insight

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The Admiralty Bill (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) seeks to replace old and obsolete maritime laws and consolidate the existing laws on civil matters of admiralty jurisdiction of courts, admiralty proceedings on maritime claims, and arrest of vessels.  Admiralty laws deal with cases of accidents in navigable waters ( territorial not inland)or involve contracts related to commerce like contracts, torts etc on such waters.

The Bill repeals following old archaic laws of British period:-

1.Admiralty Court Act 1840

2.Admiralty Court Act 1861.

3.Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act 1890

4.Colonial Courts of Admiralty(India) Act 1891.

5.Letters  Patent Provisions 1865.


Some important features of Admiralty Bill


1.Admiralty Bill extends admiralty jurisdiction to the High courts located in coastal states of India and extends it up to their territorial waters.Previously, this power was with only Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai High court.

It means now if any accident occurs in coastal water of Odisha then complainant can move to Odisha High Court rather than the above 3 High Courts who only had admirability Jurisdiction till yet.

  1. The admirability jurisdiction will be extendable by the Union Government notification up to exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or any other maritime zone or islands constituting part of India

3.It will be applicable to all the vessel irrespective of their flag state, the state of registration, etc. However  it will not be applicable to naval vessel or vessel for non-commercial purpose.


4.Maritime Claims-The High Courts may exercise jurisdiction on maritime claims arising out of conditions including: (i) disputes regarding ownership of a vessel, (ii) disputes between co-owners of a vessel regarding employment or earnings of the vessel, (iii) mortgage on a vessel, (iv) construction, repair, or conversion of the vessel, (v) disputes arising out of the sale of a vessel, (vi) environmental damage caused by the vessel, etc.

The Bill defines a vessel as any ship, boat, or sailing vessel which may be propelled mechanically or otherwise.

5.It defines the hierarchical chain of priority among the claim.The priority order of maritime claims followed claims on mortage of the vessel.

Within Maritime  Claims priority order is: – claims for wages in matters of employment on the vessel > claims with regard to loss of life or personal injury related to the operation of the vessel.

6.A vessel may be arrested for providing security against a maritime claim, on the order of the High Court which has the admirability jurisdiction on the waters in which the vessel is present at the time of the incident.

7.Appeals-Judgement from the single bench to High Court can be challenged in the division bench of the same high court.However, 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.  The latter High Court will proceed with the matter from the stage where it stood at the time of the transfer.

8.Jurisdiction over Persons-High Court may also exercise admiralty jurisdiction over certain persons under certain circumstances.

The Bill thus seeks to build an Admiralty Law as per the need of the present time so that jurisdiction of High Courts are increased and speedy trial can be achieved in admiralty related proceedings.

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