The Centre has
scrapped plans to set up a Maritime Port Regulatory Authority in a new draft of
the Indian Ports Bill that seeks to replace the Indian Ports Act 1908 after
maritime States opposed the move that would have allowed the Centre to extend
its jurisdiction over ports owned by the State governments.
proposal to set up a Maritime Port Regulatory Authority has been dropped
The Maritime Port
Regulatory Authority was designed to give sweeping powers to the Central
government to “effectively regulate and control ports” which are in the
concurrent list of the Constitution and help realize the idea of a ‘One Nation,
One Port’. “The proposal to set up a Maritime Port Regulatory Authority has
been dropped to retain the federal structure enshrined in the Constitution,” a
government official briefed on the plan said.
In the concurrent list
States argued that the move was “against the principle of cooperative
federalism, legally untenable, discriminatory and ultra vires the Constitution”
because ports are in the Concurrent list. The non-major ports are under the
control of the State Governments and cannot be regulated by the Centre, they
had said during stakeholder consultations on the Bill in January
The much-diluted new
draft of the proposed law seeks to set up a Maritime State Development Council
(MSDC) comprising representatives from the Central and State governments.
Such a Council is in existence for many years.
The Council shall
make recommendations to the government for a more efficient and conducive
framework for ports in India, suggest measures to facilitate competition and
promote efficiency in the operation of ports and to facilitate growth of the
port sector, among other issues.
It will be tasked
with assessing the future development of existing ports and new ports, both major
and non-major ports, by the Central Government or State Governments either
directly or through private participation.
For the purpose of
transparency, the Council may specify regulations for components of port
tariff. The State Maritime Boards set up by the respective maritime States will
oversee the functioning of non-major ports in their respective States.
Board constituted under the Major Port Authorities Act, 2021 shall act as the
Appellate Tribunal under the proposed law. The Appellate Tribunal will look
into appeals against directions passed by the Council, direction or order of
the State Maritime Boards, adjudicate disputes between two or more ports, where
at least one port is not within the purview of the same State, between two or
more State Maritime Boards, between one or more major ports and one or more
non-major ports or between two or more State Governments.
The orders of the Tribunal can be challenged in the Supreme Court.