The Major Ports Trust Act, 1963

The Major Ports Trust Act, 1963 was enforced on 16th October, 1963. The Act provides for establishment of port authorities in whom powers of administration and control of ports shall be vested.  The Act is divided into nine chapters that i.e. Board of Committees and trustees; staff of the board; property and contracts; works and services to be provided by the ports; tariff authorities; imposition and recovery rates at ports; borrowing powers of board; revenue and expenditure; supervision and control of central government and penalties.

Chapter 2 of the Act deals with constitution of board, there powers, duties and disqualifications. The board constituted under the Act shall be headed by a Chairman and Deputy Chairman both appointed by central government and thirty six other members out of whom nineteen members shall represent port of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras and seventeen members shall represent other ports of India. The other members appointed may be the ones representing interests of various departments such as labour, customs, defence, ship owners, vessel owners etc. These members shall be called as trustees. Every board constituted under the Act shall be a body corporate, having perpetual seal and power to sue and be sued. Any person imprisoned for an offence of moral turpitude, holding office of profit and insolvent shall be disqualified from becoming a member of the Board. The chairman and deputy Chairman shall continue to hold office till Central Government otherwise notifies. The Board shall conduct meetings from time to time in the presence of minimum five trustees. The chairman and deputy Chairman are required to be present at all the meetings and supervise the functioning of the board.

Board under the Act has power to appoint staff. Sections 23 to 28 deal with the board’s power to appoint staff as and when required. The Board has power to create post, fix allowances and wages and the same shall be notified in the official gazette.

Since the Board constituted under Act shall be an independent body thus from day of its existence all the property of board vested in Central Government shall be transferred to the Board. The assets and liabilities in terms of debts shall also be transferred along with. Board has power to acquire immovable property as per the provisions of Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The Board shall also enter into contracts on behalf of Chairman or an officer not below the rank of Head of Department. Any act done against the provisions of the Act shall not be binding on the board.

The board under section 35 has power to execute works and provide appliances and to undertake certain works whenever required.  The Central Government after notification in gazette has power to appoint Tariff Authority for major ports such authority shall be body corporate having perpetual succession. Board shall have a Chairman and two other members.  Authority shall be appointed for a period of five years and shall conduct time to time meetings.

Board under section 55 from time to time shall impose rates in relation to shipping of passengers or goods and other services connected therewith. Rates so imposed shall vary according to purpose and nature of work carried. The authority shall also time to time fix port dues after notifying in official gazette. Incase of over charge refund shall be made such person within six months. Incase where charges are not paid within two months, board has power to exercise lien, or sell such goods under section 61. Incase of perishable goods or animals the board shall conduct an auction and sell of goods within 24 hours.

Board after seeking permission of Central Government and notifying the same in gazette, has power to raise funds or loan under provisions of the Act. Loan so raised shall be against a security and shall also be endorsed in writing. All funds received by the port shall be directed into a fund called general account of Port. The Central Government has power to exercise control and supervise board. Every person employed by board shall be a public servant within meaning of the Act as laid under section 112. Incase of offences committed under the Act, Metropolitan Magistrate shall have the jurisdiction to try such cases.

Board constituted under the Act are autonomous bodies subject to control and supervision of Central Government.

by Vibhuti Nakta