Burdened with an increasing number of pirates arrested off the Indian coast and brought to Mumbai,the Home Department has approached the Bombay High Court asking it to set up a dedicated court to expedite piracy cases.
To ease the load on its prisons,the department also wants to pursue a novel strategy of ensuring that pirates from Somalia,Ethiopia and other nations languishing in local jails are convicted quickly so they can serve their sentences in their home countries.
We are writing to the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court asking for permission to set up a special court that will only deal with piracy cases. This will enable such cases to be fast-tracked,so that the courts verdict on the fate of pirates lodged in jails here is decided at the earliest, said a senior Home Department official,who did not wish to be named.
The need for a dedicated court stems from the fact that an increasing number of anti-piracy operations are being conducted by the Navy and Coast Guard,and a regular stream of foreign pirates are being brought to Mumbai to be arrested by the Yellow Gate police station, the official said.
In one instance,around 60 pirates were brought to the city in one go. Dealing with foreign prisoners,whose native tongue cannot be understood by policemen and prison guards,is a big problem. Our jails are already overcrowded and the increasing number of pirates is an added burden on the system.
Speaking about the option of repatriating pirates,the official said,There are certain international agreements under which pirates can be made to face trial in foreign countries and then serve sentences in their home countries. This is one option that we are keen on exploring soon by approaching the Centre. Besides the strain on our prisons and courts,another factor is that in past cases,Somali pirates have refused to release Indian hostages unless their arrested comrades are returned to their homeland.
Officials pointed out that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Counter-Piracy Programme (CPP),which began in 2009,has been working with countries such as Kenya,Seychelles,Tanzania,Mauritus and Maldives to prosecute Somali pirates and then repatriate them.
The UNODC-CPP has been working to enable Somalia to upgrade its prisons and courts and ensure that Somali pirates convicted in other countries can serve their sentences in their home country.