The Admiralty Act 2017: A landmark legislation for maritime claims in India

The Admiralty Act 2017 is an act of parliament of India that came into force on April 1, 2018. It aims to consolidate and modernize the laws relating to admiralty jurisdiction, legal proceedings in connection with vessels, their arrest, detention, sale and other matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

The Admiralty Act 2017 has repealed and replaced the archaic British laws that governed maritime relations and claims in India, such as the Admiralty Court Act 1840, the Admiralty Court Act 1861, the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act 1890, and the Colonial Courts of Admiralty (India) Act 1891.

Some of the main features of the Admiralty Act 2017 are:

  • Extended Jurisdiction: The Act extends the admiralty jurisdiction from the High Courts of Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta to the High Courts of Karnataka, Gujarat, Orissa, Kerala, and Hyderabad. Additionally, it authorizes the central government to further extend this jurisdiction to any other High Court.
  • Definition of ‘Vessel’: The term “vessel” is defined broadly, encompassing ships, boats, sailing vessels, and other navigation vessels, but excludes inland vessels, vessels under construction (not yet launched), warships, and naval auxiliary vessels.
  • Maritime Claims: It enumerates specific maritime claims for which admiralty jurisdiction can be exercised, covering a wide range of issues from vessel ownership to pollution damage.
    Arrest of Vessels: The Act provides detailed provisions for the arrest of vessels both in rem (against the property) and in personam (against the person) to secure maritime claims, outlining procedures and conditions for the arrest and release of vessels.
  • Priority of Claims: It establishes the hierarchy and inter se priority of maritime claims and maritime liens, ensuring that rights on the sale of vessels are vested in the purchaser, free from all previous claims, except those notified before the sale.
  • Rights of Parties: The Act safeguards the interests of various parties involved, including the owner, charterer, manager, operator, or crew, by granting them the right to be heard before any arrest or sale order and the right to claim damages for wrongful arrest or excessive security.
  • Procedural Guidelines: It applies the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 to admiralty proceedings and permits the involvement of assessors in technical matters related to admiralty proceedings.
  • Appeals and Transfer of Proceedings: Provisions for appeals from the orders and decrees of the High Courts with admiralty jurisdiction are laid out, including the ability to appeal to the Supreme Court and the authority of the Supreme Court to transfer admiralty proceedings between High Courts.

The Admiralty Act 2017 is a landmark legislation that aims to provide a uniform and comprehensive legal framework for maritime claims and disputes in India. It also seeks to align India’s maritime laws with international conventions and best practices.

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