The Naval and Aircraft Prize Act, 1971

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The Naval and Aircraft Prize Act, 1971 (Act No. 59 OF 1971) dated 16th December, 1971, being the Central Government Act was enacted with the object and motive to establish Prize Courts and provide for its procedure. The Act was intended to be enacted in 22nd year of Republic of India by Indian Parliament. Section 1 of the Act gives short title to the Act as “Naval and Aircraft Prize Act, 1971 and further Section 2 explains the meaning and definition of several terms which are repeatedly used under the different provisions of the Act, to give better interpretation. Such terms includes Aircraft, Ships, Aircraft Paper, Prized Courts, etc.

The most important provision connected with the establishment of Prize Courts as it being the part of object of the Act, is given under section 3 of the Act. The provision specks that, the Central Government can constitutes the Prize Courts from time to time, for exercising powers and performing functions which will be assigned to them. Such Courts should have one or more member appointed by the Central Government. The members should be a person with Indian Citizenship and should be equally qualified to Judge of High Court. Likewise, Section 18 of the Act deals with dissolution of Prize Courts by Central Government in case when there being no pending proceedings.

The Section 4 of the Act deals with jurisdiction of such Courts (Prize Courts) which should be exclusive in respect of each prize and proceedings for condemnation of property as prize. The provision has retrospective effect i.e. even if the prize was taken before the commencement of this Act, the Prize Courts should have jurisdiction regarding such prizes also. The Courts should also have jurisdiction under this provision, as to the prize which is brought into or even if it is seized within Indian territory, also if such prize is brought into or seized within such area which is under possession of Armed Forces of the Union. Moreover, if the Property is appropriated for the use of Central Government, the Prize Court should have jurisdiction thereof.

Moreover, the provisions as to transfer of cases in case where the matter is pending before any Prize Court at appropriate stage of proceedings. For such transfer of matter the application should be made by proper officer of the Central Government upon satisfaction that such proceedings would be more conveniently conduction in another such Court. On such transfer of matter, the transferee Prize Court should have jurisdiction to deal that matter as if the same had been originally presented before its original jurisdiction.

The Appellate authority is made to the Central Government under Section 6 of the Act, where any person being aggrieved by the decision of the Prize Court can approach with an appeal within the period of 90 days from the date of such decision. As to period of limitation for filing appeal before the Central Government, the provision of Section 5 and 12 of the Limitation Act, 1963 (Act no. 36 of 1963).

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The Section 7 deals with powers of Prize Courts in dealing with matters before it and also powers as to execution of decisions of other Prize Courts and of the Central Government. The Provisions clearly provides that the Prize Courts should have similar powers of that of Civil Courts under Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) in respect of certain matters.

Section 8 of the Act being important provision dealing with procedure as on capture of prize, where on taking and bringing on port of any ship or aircraft as prize, should be delivered to Marshal of the Court and in absence of such Marshal, it is to be delivered to the person authorized by Central Government, for taking such prize under custody of such Marshal or Person as case may be. As per Section 9 of the Act, the Captor thereof, should bring such prize into registry of the Prize Court, with all convenient speed.

Another important provision is Section 12 of the Act, where it is provided that the proceedings relating to Prize are not be applied to the enemy warships and military aircraft owned by the enemy or even to the goods carried therein. Similarly, the Prizes captured by Armed Forces of Union should be treated exclusive property of the Central Government, however, such Government can make grant of certain amounts as it deems fit, to the benevolent funds of the Armed Forces of Union, at its discretion out of the proceeds of such Prize.

Section 15 of the Act deals with offences connected with Prize. The offenders under this provision should be treated as offender of the offence, if committed by person subjected to Naval Law and punishment under Section 63, 64, 65, 66 and 67 of the Navy Act, 1957 (Act No. 62 of 1957) where maximum provide punishment is death penalty. However, section 16 provides for immunity to the Officer of Armed Forces of Union or even to any other persons against anything done in good faith or within the purview of this Act. As such no legal proceedings can be brought against such person or officers.

Moreover, section 17 of the Act empowers the Central Government as to making of Rules for regulating practice and procedure of the Prize Court and for the matters connected to the purposes of the Act, and for all other matters enlisted under the various clauses provided under Sub section (2) of the provision. Finally, the Section 19 of the Act repeals the Naval Prize Act, 1864, the Naval Agency and Distribution Act, 1864, the Prize Courts Act, 1894, the Prize Courts Procedure Act, 1914, the Prize Courts Act, 1915 , the Naval Prize Act, 1918 , the Prize Act, 1939 , in so far as they apply in India.

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by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan