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Govt proposes decriminalisation of offences under warehousing and merchant shipping laws

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NEW DELHI : The Centre has proposed amendments to two laws — Warehousing Development and Regulation Act (WDRA) and the Merchant Shipping Act — to decriminalise different offences. While the draft warehouse regulation law proposes to increase the fines significantly for doing away with the jail terms for offences, the merchant shipping law doesn’t propose any hike in the fines even as it has proposed to delete the provision of imprisonment.

Decriminalisation of offences has been a major focus of the Narendra Modi Government and every ministry has been directed to take steps to do away with the provisions of imprisonment for minor offences.

The current WDRA has provision of imprisonment for four offences for upto three years.

For example there is jail term for warehousemen issuing receipts without taking actual physical delivery of the goods. Similarly, a warehouseman or an agent can face a similar jail term for issuing duplicate negotiable warehouse receipts without substantially following the procedure and committing an offence. Food ministry officials did not disclose the increase in the quantum of fine proposed for dropping the jail terms while saying that the proposed changes are yet to be cleared by the cabinet.

They said the draft amendments propose to make it compulsory for all third party warehouses — ones which allow outsiders to store their materials — to register with the Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority. They added that through the amendments the government wants to simplify the registration process, accepting negotiable receipts only in electronic form, more powers to the regulator to investigate, take enforcement action, impose monetary penalty and adjudication. The Bill is scheduled for introduction in the Parliament during the current session.

In the case of the Merchant Shipping Bill, the shipping ministry has proposed to do away with a six months jail term for forging a certificate of work as a seaman. It proposes to retain the provision of only Rs 1,000 penalty. Similarly, it has proposed to waive off the provision of three-month imprisonment for not immediately informing authorities about jettisoned cargo, on account of abnormal weather conditions or for any other reason.

According to the draft, which has been published to seek feedback, it proposes to allow
non-resident Indian and Overseas Citizens of India to own Indian ships.

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