THE COAST GUARD ACT, 1978

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The Indian Coast Guard operating under the Ministry of Defence is the marine Para Military Force working under the close assistance of naval force, Fisheries Department, Revenue Department under the Customs authority and the Police force under both Central and State Government. The main function of the coast guard is to conserve and implement the law of sea in the maritime belt under the jurisdiction of India and other zones. The Coast Guard Act was enacted and came into force on August 18, 1978. The fundamental purpose of the enactment was to establish and control the armed forces to guarantee the safety of the Indian maritime zones and to protect the interests of the nation in these zones.

The Act includes the officer, inferior officers, person who works in a ship under the direction of the Central government but only under certain stipulations and the persons who are travelers in the coast guard ship or aircraft within the purview of the Act. These persons shall get protection under this Act until he retires, releases, removes or discharges from the Coast Guard as provided under the Act. The Act further provides for the establishment of the Coast Guard regarded as the armed force under the Union Government to facilitate the safety of the marine areas and in national importance. The establishment of the Coast Guard shall be according to the procedure for terms of service of the Coast Guard as prescribed under the Act.

The general command, management and organization of the Coast Guard shall vest with the Central government and implemented by it accordingly and the directions, supervision and control shall be administered by the Director General of Coast Guard to be chosen by the Central government. For the purpose of subordinating the Director General, the Central Government Is also empowered to appoint Inspector General, Deputy Inspector General as well as the Commandant. Further it shall also appoint other persons to assist the Director General in discharging his functions. The persons acting as members in the Coast Guard shall fulfill their duties within and outside India. The tenure of office of the members shall be at the pleasure of the President.

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Additionally, the members shall not engage in any political associations, trade unions or labour unions, any associations or institution not concerned with the activities of the coast guard, shall not publish books or letters and communicate with the media except where such publication is bona fide. The coast guards are also restricted from participating any meetings or associations organized by the political parties or such other activities specified by the Central government. The Coast guards are entrusted with the primary duty to take care of the maritime zones of the country, but there are certain supplementary functions to be performed by the coast guards:

  • Maintain and guard artificial islands, offshore workstations, installations, equipments and other constructions and devices in the marine areas;
  • To safeguard the fishermen during distress and supporting them while at sea;
  • To preserve the sea resources, protect the marine ecosystem and prevent pollution;
  • Aid the customs officials in discharging their functions;
  • Implement the provisions of the legislations enacted for the purpose of protecting the marine regions;
  • Measures for the protection of scientific research etc.

Where a coast guard corresponds with a wrongdoer or fails to report the information received from the offender to the concerned authorities or aids an offender, such coast guard shall be penalized under the provisions of the Act. Furthermore, the Act also punishes the coast guard if he willfully desists to do the duties imposed on him. The coast guard shall also be punished with imprisonment where he fails to obey the orders of his superior or caused harm to the aircraft or ship due to his own guilt. The offences committed by the coast guard shall be heard and tried by the coast guard court and the Courts shall be attended by a Law Officer or Chief Law Officer who is appointed by the Central government. The Coast guard court shall be supposed to be a criminal court within the meaning of Criminal Procedure Code.

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The Coast Guard Act, 1978 was amended by enacting The Coast Guard (Amendment) Act, 2002 which inserted certain new provisions and included additional functions to the Director General.