THE TERRITORIAL WATERS, CONTINENTAL SHELF, EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE AND OTHER MARITIME ZONES ACT, 1976 (Analysis)

  • This act mainly deals with certain matters relating to the territorial water’s continental shelf, exclusive economic zone and other maritime zones of India.
  • Under this Act, the rights over the land, minerals, and such resources found beneath the ocean, inside the territorial waters, continental shelf, and exclusive economic zones of the nation are vested in the Central Government of India. This Act focuses on India’s specific rights and jurisdiction over the maritime zones and such boundaries shared by other neighbouring countries. 
  • Hugo Grotius, the Dutch lawyer, was the first person to have expressed and analysed law related to the seas and discussed the formulation of the principle regulating the freedom of the seas, in his book in Latin known as Mare Liberum in 1609.
  •  Section 3 of the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and other Maritime Zones Act 1976, notifies the sovereignty of the Indian states over the respective territorial waters. Foreign ships, submarines, warships, and so on can utilize the territorial waters but only with the approval of the Central Government.
  • At a distance of 12 nautical miles measured from the baseline towards the sea lies the territorial sea. Territorial seas are considered within the jurisdiction of the coastal state which has complete control over it. 
  • The distance of 24 nautical miles towards the sea, measured from the baseline is considered to be the Contiguous zone.
  • The contiguous zone provides the state with the control and jurisdiction over the surface and floor of the ocean, but it does not include air space rights.
  • Section 4(1) of this Act is synonymous with the right to an innocent passage inside the territorial sea of India.  According to this Act, all foreign ships barring warships excluding water vessels like the submarines are allowed to use the territorial seas of India. But under Section 4(2) of the Act, foreign war-ships with approval from the Central Government can enter, pass, and travel in the territorial waters. The Central Government for the welfare of the nation can eliminate the right to innocent passage and cancel such a notification in the Official Gazette that would allow the passage. The right to innocent passage is utilized by Indian vessels for the facilitation of global trade.
  • According to the section 9 (1) of the Act, an agreement is required to determine the perfect maritime boundaries between India and any State with their coast just adjacent to India according to the territorial waters, contiguous zones, continental shelves, exclusive economic zones, and other maritime zones.
  •  Section 11 of the Act says about the punishment with an imprisonment term extending to three years, or with a fine, or both. 
  • In the case of Pride Foramer vs. Union of India &Ors. The petitioner, a foreign company with the main office in France and a branch office in Mumbai, the petitioner was engaged in the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas in offshore, and other related services, and works on behalf of Oil and Natural Gas Commission. The petitioner’s work in the oil rig Pride Pennsylvania situated in the exclusive economic zone as per the Maritime Zones Act. 1976. The Oil Rig carries out drilling on the ocean floors and attached to areas outside the territorial waters of India and attached to the drilling operations on the high seas. The company conducts importing of goods required in the Oil Rig. To reach the Oil Rig, the Mumbai Seaport or Airport is utilized. The respondent had stopped this transferring and shipping all the equipment, and products in the Oil Rig and would only allow it if the petitioner paid the customs duty. The company had filed this petition as it considered the respondent to be wrongfully imposing charges on the petitioner. It was held in this case that the continental shelf land and the exclusive economic zone are the parts of India under Section 6(6) and 7(7) of the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone, and Other Maritime Zones Act, 1976. The respondent was justified in charging the duties, and this petition was, therefore, dismissed. 
  • Section 5(1) explains about contiguous zones of India. An area beyond and adjacent to the territorial waters and the limit of the contiguous zone is the line every point of which is at a distance of twenty-four nautical miles from the nearest point of the baseline.
  • Republic of Italy through Ambassador and others vs. Union of India and others ((2013) 4 SCC 721) both under its domestic law and the public international law to exercise rights of sovereignty 721 India is entitled up to 24 nautical miles from the baseline on the basis of which the width of the territorial waters is measured. The incident of firing from the Italian vessel on the Indian shipping vessel having occurred within the contiguous zone, the Union of India is entitled to prosecute the two Italian marines under the criminal justice system prevalent in the country. In this case the petitioner argued in compliance with sec 5, 6, 7 of the acts which says about contiguous zones, continental zones and exclusive economic zones etc.
  • Section 6(1) of the act defines continental shelf -: The continental shelf of India comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond the limit of its territorial waters throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin or to a distance of two hundred nautical miles from the baseline where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance
  • Section 7(1) of the act defines Exclusive economic zone. –  The exclusive economic zone of India is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial waters, and the limit of such zone is two hundred nautical miles from the baseline.
  • Section 8 explains about Historical zones: (1) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify the limits of such waters adjacent to its land territory as are the historic waters of India.

 (2) The sovereignty of India extends, and has always extended, to the historic waters of India and to the seabed and subsoil underlying, and the air space over, such waters.

  • Power of making rules rest with central government according to section 15 of the act.
  • Offences are explained under section 11 of the act and is punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years or fine or both.
  • Offences by companies is explained in section 12 of the act. Section 12(1) says “Where an offence under this Act or the rules made thereunder has been committed by a company, every person who at the time the offence was committed was in charge of, and was responsible to the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.

Reference

  1. www.casemine.com
  2. Indiankanoon.org
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Aishwarya Says:

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