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In proposed tougher anti-hijack law, wider definitions, jurisdiction

Almost 16 years after an Indian Airlines aircraft was hijacked and taken to Kandahar, a Bill seeking death penalty for hijackers even in the event of on-ground casualties was cleared by the Cabinet this week. The amendments to the Bill are in line with the Beijing Protocol of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), to […]

Written by Sharmistha Mukherjee | New Delhi |
Updated: July 31, 2015 12:36:57 am
Kandhar hijack, indian airlines, AI hijack, Beijing Protocol, Civil aviation, International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Death penalty of hijackers, Cabinet Bill for AI hijackers, India news, latest news, topstories, indian express The revised Bill comes nearly 16 years after the IC 814 hijacking of 1999. (Source: Archive)

Almost 16 years after an Indian Airlines aircraft was hijacked and taken to Kandahar, a Bill seeking death penalty for hijackers even in the event of on-ground casualties was cleared by the Cabinet this week. The amendments to the Bill are in line with the Beijing Protocol of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), to update Indian laws in accordance with international resolutions.

The Amendments

The revised Bill, among the toughest of its kind globally, will enable the government to seek the death penalty if anyone — including ground handling staff, airport personnel, or others — is killed during such incidents. As per the earlier version of the Bill, hijackers faced the death penalty only in event of the death of hostages — flight crew and passengers — and security personnel. The punishment now includes confiscation of moveable and immoveable properties of offenders.

The definition of ‘hijacker’ has been widened to include individuals acting in concert with a hijacker. Any person who organises or directs others to commit a hijacking, who participates in a hijacking as an accomplice, and who assists any person to evade investigation, prosecution and punishment, will be defined as a ‘hijacker’.

The definition of hijacking itself has been widened to include aircraft that is “in service”, and not just “in flight”.

An aircraft would be considered “in service” from the time it is being prepared for a flight by the crew or ground personnel, until 24 hours after a landing.

The amendments also seek to widen the jurisdiction of Indian courts in hijacking cases. Indian courts will be able to exercise jurisdiction in case the offence is committed against or by an Indian citizen on board a flight anywhere. This also includes hijackings by stateless persons.

Five-year Process

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had introduced the Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill, 2014 in Parliament last year.

The Bill proposed the death penalty for hijackers, and stringent punishment for those acting in concert with them. A Parliamentary Standing Committee made recommendations, which have now been incorporated.

The process of amendment, however, began in 2010, when the Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill to replace the 1982 Act was cleared by Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet in March, and subsequently tabled in Rajya Sabha. It was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, which gave its recommendations in October that year.

The Standing Committee endorsed capital punishment for abettors and conspirators in any act defined as hijacking. However, the Committee pointed out that if the death penalty was ensured for all hijacking offences, the opportunity for negotiation or settlement to save the lives of passengers too would be closed. It also asked whether the death penalty would deter hijackers on suicide missions.

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