The Northern India Ferries Act, 1878

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The Northern India Ferries Act, 1878 (Act No. 17 of 1878) dated 9th November, 1878 is the Act essentially applicable for regulating the ferries in Northern India. The Act originally, contains 36 sections under five Chapters.

The first chapter is containing preliminary provisions as to short titling the Act, and commencement date and also for extension to the state of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Central Provinces, Assam, Delhi and Ajmer. The interpretation clause of the Act dealing with definitions of certain terms in the Act, contained under Section 3 of it.

Second Chapter of the Act is important as it provides for public ferries, section 4 thereof empowers the State Government to declare public ferries and in which districts such ferries should be treated to be situated. Not only this but further, sections requires the declaration of private ferries after taking possession thereof by State Government, to be public ferries and also the State Government can establish new public ferries for needy places. The State Government, besides this, should also define the limits certain public ferry, can also change course thereof and discontinue any public ferry being unnecessary. In respect of private ferries of which the State Government has taken possession and declared as public one, the compensation can be claimed under Section 5 of the Act and the similar provision provides for inquiry into such matters by Magistrate of the concerned District.

Section 6 of the Act provides for superintendence in respect of public ferries to be done by Magistrate of concerned District or by such other prescribed officers by the State Government. Similarly, the State Government is vested with authority as to direction that any public ferry to be managed by officer or municipality, etc. if such ferry is situated within any town. If any public ferry is situated within any area covered by authority of District Council or District Board, etc. in the State, the management thereof can be vested by the State Government to that Council or Board, etc as per section 7A of the Act.

The State Government under Section 8 of the Act can let by public auction the tolls of any public ferry for any duration but should be later than 5 years. Such letting should be done with the prior approval of Commissioner and should also be done in confirmation of the rules made under this Act for management and controlling of ferry. Further, section 9 says that, the if any arrears due by the lessee of such public ferry tolls then such arrears to be recovered by Magistrate of concerned District as in terms of land revenue. Section 10 deals with cancellation of such lease by the State Government by 6 months prior notice of intention. And finally, section 11 specks of surrender of lease of tolls of public ferries by lessee with 3 months notice of his intention.

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Section 12 of the Act makes provisions as to empowerment of the Commissioner of division or other officers appointed by the State Government to frame rules as to several matters contained under this provisions including control and management of all public ferries, letting of tolls, etc.

The next chapter i.e. Chapter III of the Act deals with provisions as regards to private ferries. Wherein, section 19 specifies for making of rules by empowering Commissioner of the division, who with the prior approval of the State Government is responsible to make rules for maintenance of private ferries. The tolls charged for private ferries under this Act should not be more than what has been charge in connection with the public ferries.

Another important chapter is dealing with penal provisions and procedure thereof. The section 21 asks for payment of penalty for violation of provisions of table of tolls, list of tolls, etc.; similarly, section 22 says that if any lessee or others took unauthorized toll or delay unreasonably any person, etc. then such persons to be punished and fine to be imposed on him extending to 100 rupees. Similarly, if any person violates the rules made under previous provisions are also to be punished under section 23 of the Act. Moreover, there are other provisions dealing with such offences and punishments thereof in connections with ferries under this Act.

The last chapter of the Act, dealing with miscellaneous provisions contains section 32 to 36. The section 32 empowers the Magistrate of the concerned Districts to take over the possession of boats, etc. in connection with the cancelled or surrendered lease of ferries and use or retain it until procuring the proper substitutes by such Magistrate.

The Section 34 of the Act specifically bars the power and jurisdiction of civil Courts as no suit for determining the amount of compensation payable under this Act or even amount of rent, could be entertained by Civil Courts. The Commissioner of division concerned and Magistrate of concerned District can be delegated with the powers of State Government when the State Government consider it necessary.

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by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan.