THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The High Court of Kerala has admitted a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of the Kerala Maritime Board (Amendment) Ordinance 2022. The court, however, declined to stay the operation of the ordinance as sought by the petitioner.
In his petition, M.K. Uthaman, a member of the Kerala Maritime Board, which manages the non-major ports in the State, said that he was aggrieved by the unconstitutional and illegal manner in which the amendment ordinance was promulgated.
He pointed out that the amendment did not serve the interest of the Maritime Board or the State’s shipping policy. It was brought in without consulting the Maritime Board. In fact, all the coastal States had set up their Maritime Boards for the managements of the minor ports. They were supposed to function as an autonomous body for the betterment and development of non-major ports. The State had 17 notified non-major ports, the administration of which was vested with the board. In fact, the amendment had transferred the power of the board to delegate, to the port department.
Board not autonomous now
The petitioner pointed out that the un-amended section 8 of the Act empowered the board to delegate power only with the prior approval of the government. The amended section also stipulated that the CEO had to ensure that the board functions according to the interest of the government. Therefore, the government did not want the board to function as an autonomous institution. The amendment had taken away the functional and financial autonomy of the board.
The amendment also gives the government a free hand to supersede the board, without giving prior notice. While the un-amended section allowed the government to supersede the board for a period not exceeding six months at a time, as per the amendment, the government could appoint an administrator for a period as may be specified in its order.