Procedure in certain allegations in desertion cases
487. (1) Whenever, in any proceeding against any seaman or apprentice belonging to any ship for the offence of desertion, or absence without leave, it is alleged by one fourth, or if their number exceeds twenty by not less than five, of the seamen belonging to the ship, that the ship is by reason of un-seaworthiness, over loading, improper loading, defective equipment, or for any other reason, not in a fit condition to having cognizance of the case shall take such means as may be in its power to proceed to sea, or that the accommodation in the ship is insufficient, the Court having cognizance of the case shall take such means as may be in its power to satisfy itself concerning the truth or untruth of the allegation, and shall for that purpose receive the evidence of the persons making the same, and may summon any other witness whose evidence it may think is desirable to hear, and shall, if satisfied that the allegation is groundless, adjudicate in the case, but if not so satisfied shall, before adjudication, cause the ship to be surveyed.
(2) A seaman or apprentice charged with desertion, or with absence without leave, shall not have any right to apply for a survey under this section unless he has before deserting or absenting himself without leave complained to the master of the circumstances so alleged in justification.
(3) For the purposes of this section, the Court shall require any Surveyor or, if such Surveyor cannot be obtained without unreasonable expense or delay, then any other competent person appointed by the Court and having no interest in the ship, her freight, or cargo, to survey the ship, and to answer any question concerning her which the Court thinks fit to put.
(4) Such Surveyor or other person shall survey the ship, and make his written report to the Court, including an answer to every question put to him by the Court, and the Court shall cause the report to be communicated to the parties and unless the opinions expressed in the report are proved to the satisfaction of the Court to be erroneous, shall determine the questions before it in accordance with those opinions.
(5) Any person making a survey under this section shall for the purposes thereof have all such powers as are specified in sub section (3) of section 416.
(6) The costs, if any, of the survey shall be determined in accordance with the scale of fees fixed by the Government, by notification in the official Gazette, in this behalf.
(7) If it is proved that the ship is in a fit condition to proceed to sea, or that the accommodation is sufficient, as the case may be, the costs of the survey shall be paid by the person upon whose demand or in consequence of whose allegation the survey was made, and may be deducted by the master or owner out of the wages due or to become due to that person, and shall be paid over to the Government.
(8) If it is proved that the ship is not in a fit condition to proceed to sea, or that the accommodation is insufficient, as the case may be, the master or owner of the ship shall pay the cost of the survey to the Government, and shall also be liable to pay to the seaman or apprentice who has been detained in consequence of the said proceeding before the Court under this section such compensation for his detention as the Court awards.