Legislation UpdatesStatutes/Bills/Ordinances

The Inland Vessels Act, 2021 was assented by the President on August 12, 2021. It replaces the Inland Vessels Act, 1917.  The Act regulates inland vessel navigation by states including the registration of vessels, and safe carriage of goods and passengers. The Act seeks to introduce a uniform regulatory framework for inland vessel navigation across the country promoting economical and safe transportation and trade through inland waters.

Key highlights of the Act are:

  • Mechanically propelled inland vessels: The Act defines such vessels any inland vessel in the inland waters which is propelled by mechanical means of propulsion such as ships, boats, sailing vessels, container vessels, and ferries.
  • Inland water area into zones: The State Government shall declare by notification any inland water area to be a “Zone” depending on the maximum significant wave eight criteria.
  • Registration: For operating in inland waters, all such vessels must have a certificate of survey, and a certificate of registration.  Vessels with Indian ownership must be registered with the Registrar of Inland Vessels (appointed by the state government).  The registration certificate will be valid across the country and will indicate the inland water zones (areas of operation to be demarcated by states) for such vessels.
  • Safety in navigation: Inland vessels shall be required to follow certain specifications for signals and equipment to ensure navigation safety, as specified by the central government.  In case of a navigation hazard, the master of a vessel must immediately send a distress signal to other vessels in proximity and to the concerned state government.
  • Accidents: Accidents in any case must be reported to the head officer of the nearest police station, as well as to a state government appointed authority.  The state may require the District Magistrate to question into these matters and submit a report recommending actions to be taken.
  • Contravention of provisions: The central government will prescribe the minimum number of people that vessels must have, for various roles. Contravention of any provisions will attract a penalty of up to Rs 10,000 for the first offence, and Rs 25,000 for subsequent offences. The central government will prescribe the standards for qualification, training, examination and grant of certificate of competency, which indicate the fitness of the recipients to serve in the specified roles.  State governments will grant these certificates.
  • Prevention of pollution: The central government will release a list of chemicals, any ingredients or substance carried as bunker or as cargo, or any substance in any form discharged from any mechanically propelled inland vessel, as pollutants. Vessels will discharge or dispose sewage, as per the standards specified by the central government. The State governments will grant vessels a certificate of prevention of pollution, in a form as prescribed by the central government.
  • Database on inland vessels: An electronic centralised record of data on inland vessels to be maintained by the central government. These will include information with respect to the(i) registration of vessels, (ii) crew and manning, and (iii) certificates issued.
  • Development fund: A Development Fund to be established under the Act for the following purposes: (i) emergency preparedness, (ii) containment of pollution, and (iii) boosting inland water navigation. Each state will constitute such a development fund. Sources of contribution to the fund include: (i) schemes of state governments, (ii) stakeholders, and (iii)collections from sale of wreck or cargo.
  • Non-mechanically propelled inland vessels: The Act delegates the power to State Government to make rules to regulate non-mechanically propelled inland vessels.

 


*Tanvi Singh, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Sanjay Kishan Kaul and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ has issued directions with respect to motor vehicle accident claims and has said that the said “directions will apply across the country so that a uniform practice is followed.”

Here are the detailed directions:

  1. Accident Information Report- The jurisdictional police station shall report the accident under Section 158(6) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988(Section 159 post 2019 amendment) to the tribunal and insurer within first 48 hours either over email or a dedicated website.
  2. B. Detailed Accident Report- Police shall collect the documents relevant to the accident and for computation of compensation and shall verify the information and documents. These documents shall form part of the Report. It shall email the Report to the tribunal and the insurer within three months. Similarly the claimants may also be permitted to email the application for compensation with supporting documents, under Section 166 to the tribunal and the insurer within the same time.
  3. The tribunal shall issue summons along with the Report or the application for compensation, as the case may be, to the insurer by email.
  4. The insurer shall email their offer for settlement/response to the Report or the application for claim to the tribunal along with proof of service on the claimants.
  5. After passing the award, the tribunal shall email an authenticated copy of the award to the insurer.
  6. The insurer shall satisfy the award by depositing the awarded amount into a bank account maintained by the tribunal by RTGS or NEFT. For this purpose the tribunal shall maintain a bank account and record the relevant account details along with the directions for payment to the insurer in the award itself.
  7. Each tribunal shall create an email ID peculiar to its jurisdiction for receiving the emails from the police and the insurer as mentioned above. Similarly, all insurer throughout India shall also create an email ID peculiar to the jurisdiction of each claim tribunal. These email IDs would be prominently displayed at tribunal, the police stations and the office of the insurers for the benefit of the claimants. Similarly, these email IDS shall also be prominently displayed on the website maintained by the tribunal and the insurer.
  8. Insurers shall appoint nodal officers for each tribunal and provide their contact details, phone and mobile phone numbers, and email address to Director Generals of State Police and the tribunals.

The Court was also of the opinion that the Central Government shall develop an online platform accessible to the tribunals, police authorities and insurers throughout India, as each State having an independent online platform for submission of accident reports, claims and responses to claims, will hamper efficient adjudication of claims, especially where the victim of the accident is not a resident of State where accident has occurred. It, however, refrained from passing any directions on the same for the time being after the ASG submitted that some more time may be required to work out the time period within which they can be implemented and the necessary infrastructure for the same created for which some more discussions are required.

The Court is due to take up the matter again after the summer break.

[Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company Private Ltd. v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 418, order dated 16.03.2021]


Amicus Curiae: Mr. Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan, AC, Mr. Vipin Nair, AOR

For Petitioner(s): Ms. Meenakshi Arora,Sr. Adv.

Mr. Siddharth, AOR

Mr. Amit Kumar Agrawal, Adv.

Ms. Mamta Meghwal, Adv.

For Respondent(s):  Mr. J.K. Sud, Ld. ASG

Ms. Garima Prashad, Adv.

Mr. Bhuvan Mishra, Adv.

Mr. Navanjay Mahapatra, Adv.

Ms. Sanya Sud, Adv.

Mr. Randeep Sachdeva, Adv.

Mr. Harish Nadda, Adv.

Mr. Raj Bahadur Yadav, Adv.

Mr. G.S. Makker, Adv.

Mr. B.V. Balram Das, Adv.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the PIL filed by the Chairman and Head of Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Ganga Hospital, Coimbatore, seeking enforcement of road safety norms and appropriate treatment of accident victims, after witnessing the acute loss of life and limbs caused by road accidents daily, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ enumerated a number of directions to ensure road safety. Some of the most important directions include:

  • Framing of Road Safety Policy by State Governments and constitution of State Road Safety Council.
  • Establishment of Lead Agency acting as act as the Secretariat of the State Road Safety Council and coordinate all activities such as licensing issues including issues of driving licences, registration of vehicles, road safety and features of vehicles, along with other allied matters including emission norms and other activities.
  • Establishment of Road Safety Fund from the fines collected for traffic violations and the Fund will be utilized for meeting expenses relating to road safety.
  • State Governments and Union Territories should urgently prepare a Road Safety Action Plan by 31st March, 2018 and put it into action after giving it due publicity.
  • District Road Safety Committee headed by the Collector of the District should be constituted and should include amongst others the Superintendent of Police, Health Officers, Engineers of the Public Works Department, representatives of the National Highways Authority of India, the Road Transport Officer of the District and members of civil society from the District.
  • State Governments and Union Territories should establish Permanent Road Safety Cells by 31st January, 2018.
  • Improvement in the design of roads to make them safe.
  • GPS or location tracking devices must be fitted in all public service vehicles.
  • Road Safety Audits as an audit of road safety is essential to reduce the possibility of road accidents through corrective measures.
  • Road Safety Equipments including acquisition of cameras and surveillance equipments in detecting traffic and identifying violators, setting up of special patrol forces along the National Highways and State Highways.
  • Road Safety Education and Counseling should be made a part of the school curriculum.
  • Emergency Medical Care should be established and at least one Trauma Care Centre should be set up in every district with necessary facilities and an ambulance.
  • Due publicity must be given to the Universal Accident Helpline Number ‘108’ so that an ambulance can be activated at the earliest whenever necessary.
  • Directions relating to Drivers’ training, lane driving, ABS, Air Bags and Headlights, Speed Governors, Crash Test, etc. were also issued.

The petitioner had suggested that practical measures need to be taken in a time-bound and expeditious manner to give effect to legislations, reports and recommendations for ensuring that the loss of lives due to road accidents is minimized. He had brought to the Court’s notice that 90% of the problem of deaths due to road accidents is the result of a lack of strict enforcement of safety rules on roads and strict punishment for those who do not obey rules. He had relied upon data published in December 2011 by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in its publication captioned “Road Accidents in India 2010” to indicate that the number of road accidents is increasing every year and that unfortunately more than half the victims are in the economically active age group of 25-65 years. [Dr. S. Rajaseekaran (II) v. Union of India,  2017 SCC OnLine SC 1392, decided on 30.11.2017]