27 C
September 30, 2023

Collision with fishing boat: Karnataka High Court upholds criminal case cargo ship owned by Singapore company

The High Court of Karnataka has upheld the filing of an Indian criminal case against a cargo container ship owned by a Singaporean company for colluding with a mechanized fishing boat from Kerala in international waters off the coast of Mangaluru in April of last year, which led to the deaths of 12 fishermen.
The order was made by Justice M. Nagaprasanna in response to a petition filed by Singapore’s CMA CGM Asia Shipping PTE Ltd.

The petitioner-company had questioned the prosecution’s actions in India and argued that the Merchant Shipping Act of 1958, the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr. PC) do not apply to it because it has no presence there and that the filing of the case under these statutes is in violation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

On April 13, 2021, 42 nautical miles off the coast of Mangaluru, the container ship “MV APL Le Havre,” owned by the petitioner-company, collided with the Indian fishing boat “Rabah,” owned by a company in Kerala. The Merchantile Marine Department filed a criminal complaint in August 2021 following a preliminary investigation that revealed negligence in the operation of the petitioner’s ship.

Of the total of 14 fishermen aboard the fishing boat (seven from each Tamil Nadu and West Bengal), six were confirmed dead after their bodies were found, six others were presumed dead because their bodies could not be found, and two others were rescued.

The High Court has determined that the provisions of India’s Maritime Zones Act, 1976 are applicable for the petitioner because the incident took place within India’s exclusive economic zone, which extends up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline even though the ship is “flagged outside India,” after analyzing the laws, including the apex court’s 2013 ruling in the case involving the Italian marines.

The court also emphasized that the IPC and Cr.PC provisions are now applicable to India’s Exclusive Economic Zone in international waters as a result of the notification issued under the Maritime Zones Act.

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