Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
It is not possible, by means of the agreement, to place a seaman in precisely the same position as if he was included in the Indian Act; but certain defects in the present system can be removed. We recommend that steps be taken to ensure that dependants are capable of enforcing the agreement. We also consider that steps should be taken to ensure that all shipowners engaging Indian seamen shall enter into the agreement. We understand that the Indian Government has power to insist upon this. The only point to consider is the propriety of exercising compulsion so long as there is a possibility of a double claim, i.e., a claim under the agreement and a subsequent claim in Britain or elsewhere under the law applicable to the ship. Perhaps there is no practical force in this objection, for it may be assumed that Indian seamen and their dependants in India would ordinarily be quite unable to pursue claims in Britain or elsewhere, and even if they did, any amount already paid would presumably be set off against the claim by the British or other court. But we may suggest that before making the agreement compulsory, Government might ascertain whether, in fact, there have been any double claims, and whether the danger of double recovery is a real one in practice. The extension of the agreement will not be completely equivalent to bringing Indian seamen under the Indian Act, and Indian seamen are naturally anxious that this Act should be extended to them while serving on any ship. But it is a general principle of international law that, on a ship belonging to a particular country, the law applicable while on the high seas is the law of that country and those who embark, whether as seamen or passengers, on foreign ships go outside the protection of their own laws for the time being. This principle can, we understand, be modified by reciprocal arrangements between the countries concerned. In the present case the country principally concerned is Great Britain
as the great majority of Indian seamen serve on British ships. We recommend that the possibilities of giving Indian seamen the right to compensation, while serving on ships registered outside India, should be further explored by the Government of India and the Home Office. Special attention should be given to the possibility of extending the Indian Act to Indian seamen while serving on all ships within India's territorial waters and on British ships engaged in the coastal trade of India. The endorsement by the recent Imperial Conference of certain recommendations made in 1929 by the Conference on the Operation of Dominion Legislation and Merchant Shipping Legislation gives some reason for hoping that an advance will be possible in this direction.
We also recommend the reduction of the limit of tonnage for sea-going and coasting ships to 50 tons. We consider that the time is now ripe for the inclusion of more persons employed on inland vessels. The Act might safely be extended to cover those employed on all inland vessels propelled by steam or motor engines and also to the more important public ferry-boats not so propelled.