AP govt fires a shot across Centre’s bow over draft Ports Bill

Mumbai | Updated on January 22, 2021

The Centre’s bid to extend its jurisdiction over ports owned by State governments with the Indian Ports Bill has come under fire from Andhra Pradesh.

The State, with the second longest coastline of 974 km, termed the draft Bill “discriminatory” and “ultra vires the Constitution” because ports are in the Concurrent List.

“Why should there be a single regulatory authority to control all the minor ports across States? How can the Centre take over the State ports? Ports are in the Concurrent List and the draft Bill is legally untenable. Every State should boil at this Bill,” NP Ramakrishna Reddy, Chief Executive Officer, AP Maritime Board, told BusinessLine.

The draft Bill, according to Reddy, is discriminatory because minor ports are under the control of State governments and major ports under the Centre. Therefore, the respective State maritime boards should be vested with the powers of the Maritime Regulatory Authority for each State as in the case of major ports wherein there will be one regulatory authority for each major port as envisaged under the Major Port Authorities Bill (which has been passed by the Lok Sabha and is awaiting the Rajya Sabha nod).

Legal redress

“The regulation of minor ports cannot be done by the Centre. The AP government opposes the draft Indian Ports Bill,” he stated. The AP government warned that it will “go to the Supreme Court and do whatever is possible” if the Centre goes ahead with the Bill. The proposed Bill is against the principle of cooperative federalism and also against the federal structure enshrined in the Constitution, he said.

States will be deprived of their right of driving the economy if the control of the State ports is taken away, Reddy said. The AP government fears that the Bill, if enacted, will also jeopardise the concession agreements signed with private firms for running three ports at Krishnapatnam, Gangavaram and Kakinada.

“With the proposed Act, private firms running ports in AP for many years will have to go to the Centre for registration and if they don’t get it, then thousands of crores spent by them on developing the ports will have to be repaid by the State government. There are huge investments at stake,” Reddy said.

Interview with Reddy p7

Published on January 22, 2021

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