The Calcutta High Court has struck down a scheme of Kolkata Port Trust imposing royalty on the income of private handling agents at Haldia Dock Complex dealing with dry bulk cargo, holding that it has no power to impose such condition.
Justice Arijit Banerjee, after hearing petitions by some stevedoring companies challenging the new scheme, also struck down KoPT's tender condition restricting the remuneration of private handling agents, which they receive for services rendered to importers and exporters, to ceiling rates fixed by the Port.
Justice Banerjee, in his December 9 order, held both the clauses in the Port's tender relating to royalty and fixing of ceiling limit to be illegal.
The court said that the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) constituted under Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 would have the power to frame a scheme for royalty as well as take a decision on ceiling rates for handling agents.
Government of India has framed stevedoring policy for all ports where the powers of TAMP for fixing port rates have been recognised to the exclusion of individual port authorities, the petitioners claimed.
The four writ petitions filed by Ripley, J M Baxi, A M Enterprises and Lee & Muirhed challenged the clauses of the KoPT tender which imposed royalty and ceiling rates on income in respect of such berths at Haldia Dock Complex where private handling agents render services directly to importers and exporters without involvement of the Port.
The berths which have been allotted for exclusive use of a single party on contractual basis have been kept outside the purview of the court’s decision.
Anindya Kumar Mitra, senior counsel appearing with solicitors Victor Moses & Company, had argued that the scheme for royalty introduced by KoPT through a tender dated July 21, 2014 was without any authority of law.
He had also pointed out that several handling agents had obtained license at Haldia by paying fees prescribed by TAMP and no further levy could be imposed by the Port without sanction of TAMP.
The court, in its order, observed that KoPT had no power to impose any fiscal condition for granting handling agency licenses as per provisions of Major Port Trusts Act, 1963.