Anti-hijack bill in next session of Parliament: Govt

Anti-hijack bill in next session of Parliament: Govt

A bill to award death penalty to hijackers and give the right to security forces to shoot down an aircraft which may be used as a missile is likely to be brought in Parliament in the next session.

The Civil Aviation and Law Ministries are taking a fresh look at the much-delayed Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill to amend the 1982 Act to bring the law in tune with the latest international legislations and resolutions, Civil Aviation Minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju told PTI today.

"There is a Bill already introduced in Rajya Sabha (in 2010). But since then, the definition of hijack has changed globally. So, in line with those changes and practices worldwide, a draft has been prepared and the process is going on," he said.

"We will take this (fresh) legislation to the Union Cabinet. And once it is adopted by the Cabinet, we will introduce the new Bill and withdraw the old one," Raju said.

"In the next session, we will be in a position to take it through," he said in response to questions.

Almost 15 years after Kandahar hijack, the government is now working on issues like incorporating the latest global anti-hijack laws and bring the Indian law in line with the Beijing Protocol of the UN body International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The Bill, pending in the Rajya Sabha since August 2010 after the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture gave its recommendations, was cleared by the Cabinet headed by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March 2010.

The measure, introduced by then Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, was referred to the Standing Committee that gave its report within a few months, but it did not see the light of the day thereafter.

The bill was brought after incidents like the hijack of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999 and the September 11, 2001 terror strikes in the United States, reflecting major threats like civilian aircraft being hijacked and used as missiles to cause mass destruction.

In view of the growing threats, the draft bill proposes to amend the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, and enhance its scope by including death penalty for the offence of hijacking which at present provides for imprisonment for life and fine.

The proposed law would also give teeth to concerned agencies or security forces to immobilise an aircraft or prevent its take-off and also allow the Indian Air Force to scramble its fighters to intercept a hijacked aircraft and force it to land, they said.

A hostile plane could also be shot down if there is evidence that it could be used as a missile to hit a vital installation.

The legislation would provide that anyone, alone or in concert with others, who commit acts like seizure or control of an aircraft by force or any form of intimidation would be deemed to have committed the offence of hijacking.

It proposes to give powers to the agencies and forces for stern action against those making phone calls and doling out hoax threats, they said.

In its report, the Standing Committee had endorsed the provision to award capital punishment to abettors and conspirators committing any act defined as hijacking.

However, it had also opined that if death penalty was ensured for all hijacking offences, then the opportunity for negotiation or settlement to save the lives of passengers would be closed. It had also asked whether death penalty would serve as deterrence to hijackers on suicide missions.

A group of ministers (GoM) headed by then Home Minister P Chidambaram had approved the bill to include death sentence and life imprisonment for hijacking before the Union Cabinet gave its nod to the measure then.

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