[Arpita Goswami currently serves as an Assistant Editor to China Oceans Law Review, and is a Graduate Assistant at the South China Sea Institute, Xiamen University, P.R. China. The views expressed here are her own and have no connection whatsoever to the above mentioned organizations.]
The recently concluded Bay of Bengal Maritime Arbitration Case between India and Bangladesh offers interesting insights into the application of the judicial pronouncements to the factual situation contemporaneous with it for determining the boundary lines and the usage of cartographic evidence in the same. This post examines the section of the Award delimiting the riverine boundary between the two States. The reasoning given by Tribunal in this case makes an interesting read regarding the technicalities of demarcation of boundaries, challenges in the contemporaneous applications and the validity of cartographic evidence in such an application.
Background (para. 50-55 of the judgment)
The Indian Independence Act, 1947 of the United Kingdom, partitioned from India, the states of West Pakistan and East Pakistan. East Pakistan was carved out of the Bengal Province, with West Bengal remaining in India. In order to demarcate the boundary between East Pakistan and West Bengal, the Bengal Boundary Commission was set up in 1947 which was chaired by Sir Cyril Radcliffe. In Aug. 1947, the Commission submitted the report describing the boundary, and is known as “Radcliffe Award”. However, in 1948 the Indo-Pakistan Boundary Dispute Tribunal was set up by India and Pakistan to address the disagreement in the application of the Radcliffe Award. In 1950, the above mentioned Tribunal gave its Award, known as the “Bagge Award”.
In 1971, East Pakistan declared independence from West Pakistan, and succeeded as a new state of Bangladesh to the territory of East Pakistan and its boundaries.
The boundary between India and Bangladesh runs across the Sunderban Delta region. The southern section of the land boundary lies in the riverine features, which fall in the Bay of Bengal. Among its tasks of finding the land boundary terminus anddelimiting the territorial sea, EEZ and continental shelves between the two States, the present Tribunal also had to concern itself with delimiting the boundary river between the two, which will be discussed in the passages below.