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The Calcutta Pilots Act, 1859

The present enactment is one of the product of British ruling period of India and the same was enacted with the name and short title as the Calcutta Pilots Act, 1859 (Act no. 12 of 1859). The present short title was provided to the enactment by the Repealing and Amending Act of 1903 (Act no. 1 of 1903). It was made clear by the said Act of 1903, that the present Act is having applicability to all Pilots employed as such at the Presidency (Calcutta) and also all the persons entered on the rolls of the Government establishment and also all licensed persons as to act as pilots in the same Presidency. The provisions of the Act are provisions for trying the Pilots from at the Presidency of the Fort William in Bengal (Calcutta), in case of their breach of duties. In other words the said trial of pilots is provided by amending the existing laws relating thereto. The Act was assented by the Governor general of Council on 4th day of May, 1859. The provisions under the Act were divided into twenty three sections. The Act being very older, it was amended many times.

The very first provision of the Act was seeking repeal of two enactments being Act no. 24 of 1845 and Act no. 1 of 1851, however, this provision was itself repealed by the Repealing Act, 1870 (Act no. 14 of 1870 ). Whereas, the provisions relevant to the purpose of the Act are contained in second section, where it is in case any person is employed in the Hooghly Pilot Service of the Commissioners for the Calcutta Port or even licensed as such, and while so if such person is committing any breach of duty, then such person should be brought to trial upon charges framed by Port Officer, and this should be under the satisfaction of the Central Government. Notably, the earlier authorities like, Superintendent of Marine and Lieutenant- Governor replaced by the Port Officer and the Central Government as afore shown. The Central Government is empowered to appoint a fit person to hold the office of Judge of the Court. Similarly, there is a provision relating to appointment of prosecutor on the part of Government, who should here be appointed by the Central Government from amongst the fit person as he should be responsible to conducting the proceedings on behalf of the Government, properly. The aforesaid appointed Judge in an authority before whom all the trials under this Act should held also the Jury is similar authority, who is composed of two merchants from Calcutta and one Master of a merchant ship from the Port of Calcutta and one twenty years service provider Pilot. It is also made clear in the Act that two separate Lists, out of them one is required to contain the names of Merchants and other to contain names of Pilots, should be prepared by the, on Judges demand which will be to serve on aforesaid Jury. Similarly, as to such proceedings, there should be Notices to the prosecutor and Accused in relation to the fixing of the place, time in which the Jury will be appointed. As such the Jury will be appointed to serve at the trial from the persons amongst the merchants and pilots as declared by the Judges. Besides all these matter, the power for fixing the day on which the trial will be held, is vested with the Judge and such Judge will also be responsible to serve a summon upon the persons so appointed as Jury and in case any such persons is failed to attend, even after duly summoned then they will be fined maximum of which is provided as 200 rupees for each such failure. Besides serving to the persons as Jury, the Judges are also responsible to summon any person to attend the proceedings as witness, on the request of the Prosecutor or the accused and in case his failure to attend the said proceedings, he will be responsible to fine below 500 rupees. Such summoned witnesses, if about to depart form the Calcutta and will become unable to attend the Trial, then such persons will be examined earlier to the fixed day of Trial before the Judge of the Court. However, in case of any persons evidence found necessary then such persons can be arrested after issuing the warrant in relation to their arrests. As such, after completion of such trial the Jurors are entitled to pronounce decision which here in the Act, called verdict, by following that there should be majority of Jurors in favour of such verdict and in case of equal opinion of the Jurors, the umpire vote will be held by the Judge, whose decision will survive.

After completion of such trial in accordance with the provisions of this Act, if in case the accused against whom such trial was pending and was finalized in relation to concerned charges, is found guilty then the Judge is empowered under this Act to Sentence such accused by dismissing him from the said pilot service, or even can withdraw his license. The Central Government is entitled to prepare the Schedule of Offences and punishments therein which will serve for guiding the Court in dealing with such trials. And all such sentences awarded under this Act by the Judge of the Court, will final unless there is an approval from the Central Government. The Central Government is empowered, further, to make rules under this Act being consistent with the present Act. And such rules to provide for conducting of the proceedings and also for regulating the practice of the concerned Court.

Though the Act makes provisions as to setting up of Court for the concerned purpose, however, there is no evidence of such Court’s existence and as such the 20th Law Commission of India has recently on November, 2014 sought the repealing of this Act by terming it as redundant. The said recommendation as to repealing of the present Act was made in the 248th report of Law commission, being ‘First Interim report’ on its study on ‘Legal Enactments: Simplifications and Streamlining’.

Download & Read the Bare Act: The Calcutta Pilots Act, 1859-pdf

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