March 10, 2017
Kalyan Banerjee speaks on The Admiralty (Jurisdiction & Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016
Thank you Madam for allowing me to speak on The Admiralty (Jurisdiction & Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016. Firstly, I must point out that I respectfully disagree with the statements made by the Hon’ble Minister. The Minister while making the statement said the Bill is also covering the environmental issues. I am sorry, Sir. Under clause 4 this is not the scope. You have also referred to that in case of leakage of oil etc. This will come within the purview of this. Therefore, I respectfully disagree with the statement made by him in respect of two issues.
This Act was necessary for long rather I say it is unfortunate that although Supreme Court in 1992 directed the Central Government to come up with a law which will fulfill the need of the day, when 151 reports of the Law Commission were existing. But unfortunately from 1992 to 2016, no one paid any heed to the circumstances. Today it is needed and therefore I am not opposing, as far as the substance of the Bill is concerned.
Madam, I will just mention two or three things. The claim which is required to be decided by the High Court by reason of this enactment of the Act, itself has been codified under Clause 4. The jurisdictions have been said there.
Clause 2, Sub Clause K, states “territorial water shall have the same meaning as assigned to it in the ‘Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and other Maritime Zones Act, 1976’. You have incorporated a provision and that is a vague provision. Which High Court has the jurisdiction on the sea itself?
I have an experience being a Lawyer; we had a dispute with the Odisha Government in respect of territorial water. However, both the Hon CMs discussed and resolved the problem and it is now working very good. I will point out to the Honourable Minister, kindly clarify this, this Bill is bringing another area where more interpretation is required to be done by the Court. You have to clarify and clear it.
Clause 17 Sub Clause 2, “shall not withstand the appeal of admiralty proceedings pending in the High Court immediately before the commencement of the Act, shall continue to be adjudicated by such High Court in accordance with the provisions of this Act.”
What does it mean? Firstly, “shall continue to be adjudicated by such High Court” – if you have said it is alright. The moment you are saying with accordance of the provisions of the Act, there is no clarity in this section. Will Kolkata will go to Odisha, or any other places will go to another? If a proceeding is pending in the High Court, will it continue in the High Court? Then the language of the statute needs to be made clear. You are creating a confusion by saying that before the commencement of the Act, it will continue to be adjudicated by such High Court in accordance with the providence of this Act.
Now I want to make a point to the nation its self. A national problem has emerged. You are giving the jurisdiction to the High Court to decide but do you know how many vacancies are there in the High Courts? How will they take the load? Not a single High Court is in a position to function.
Why you are not fulfilling the vacancies? The National Judicial Appointments Bill was passed here. Ultimately the Supreme Court declared it ultra vires; we have to accept this. We cannot have any ego on that. Neither the legislature nor the executive can have any ego with the judiciary. This has to be sorted out. If there is an ego with the judiciary regarding the filling of the vacancies kindly fill it up.
My suggestion to you (also it is a very difficult job for you) is that the territorial water jurisdiction has to be identified. Now it is not much difficult because of the new mechanisms like satellite etc.
You have to identify the part about water belonging to West Bengal and Odisha. If you identify that part you will find the question regarding the jurisdiction by the court that would be lesser and easier job. In the future if you will try to do it will be great helpful. This is my suggestion. With this I give you thanks. This Bill has been long pending since 1992. Let it be passed. There is no difficulty. With this I conclude.