Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Madras High Court rules on Maritime Course jurisdiction.

Chennai, November 24 The Madras High Court has set aside two notices of the Director General of Shipping (DGS) that sought to limit the power of the Uthandi based Indian Maritime University. Justice S Manikumar was making a ruling on petitions filed by Mr. C. Jothikumar of the Maritime Institutes' Association and the International Maritime Academy. The Court's ruling appears to indicate clearly that the IMU should be, in its opinion, the sole authority for approval, affiliation and regulation of marine courses.

Media reports carried in the Hindu and the Times of India quote Justice Manikumar of the High Court saying that the impugned notices, which were in the form of executive instructions purported to be issued in exercise of statutory provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, could not override statutory provisions of the IMU Act. While passing judgement on the writ petitions, Justice Manikumar said that institutions such as the AICTE, MCI and DCI were statutory bodies created and empowered to grant recognition, approve courses, permit intake, etc, but the DGS was not specifically created to do so.

The DGS notices were issued in April and May of this year, after which petitions had been filed in Chennai asking that these notices be quashed. The petitioners had pleaded to the court that IMU's 'power of affiliation, approval of courses and regulations, supervision of member institutes of the petitioner’s association and of the petitioner institute' be not interfered with, as these powers arose from the IMU Act. This, according to the Maritime Institutes' Association and the International Maritime Academy, included regulating the intake of students to Maritime Education and Training institutions, Pre Sea and Post Sea training and fixing eligibility criteria for students, all of which they said should be in the IMU's domain.

The petitioners claimed that the DGS had issued notices that restricted the powers of the IMU; the formation of a 'Monitoring and Implementation Committee' (MIC) was also mooted, with representation from the DGS and IMU. The MIC was proposed to, amongst other things, look at new approvals and additional capacities for MET courses. The petition claimed that the DGS was a subordinate officer under the Union Shipping Secretary whereas the Vice Chancellor of IMU was an independent authority. Justice Manikumar agreed with the petitioners, saying that executive instructions issued under the statutory provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act could not override statutory provisions of the IMU Act, and that the DGS was not specifically empowered to grant recognition of institutes or approve courses or additional intake. Doing so would infringe upon the rights of the University as set out in the IMU act, in the court's opinion. The DGS could not usurp the powers of the IMU, Justice Manikumar said. "The contentions that the DGS is a regulatory body for the entire maritime education cannot be countenanced."


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