The government will present a new anti-hijacking bill in the next Parliament session that proposes stricter punishments, including the death penalty, to deter hijackers, a civil aviation ministry official told HT.
Under current laws, the maximum sentence that can be awarded to a hijacker is life imprisonment. The new Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2014, will increase the scope of punishment by awarding the death penalty for hijacking that involves the death of a hostage or security personnel. The Bill also allows a hijacker’s property to be confiscated."There will be great deterrence towards hijacking because of the death penalty provision," said union civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju.
Awarding the death penalty for hijacking was first considered after terrorists hijacked an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to Kandahar in 1999. After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in the US, the government felt the need to amend the existing Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, and introduced the Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2010.
A ministry official said the new Bill proposes to increase the net on perpetrators. “The Bill will enable India to register a case against hijackers if any Indian is hijacked in any aircraft anywhere across the world,” he said. Currently, the offender has to be an Indian citizen or the aircraft has to land in India for a case to be registered.
The Bill also broadens the definition of hijacking by introducing an “in-service” clause. Hijacking is currently limited by an “in-flight” definition, which means the period after the doors of a plane are closed for take-off. Under the new provisions, an aircraft shall be considered to be “in-service” from the beginning of pre-flight preparations by ground personnel to until 24 hours after it has landed.
Another area the Bill proposes to change is trials of offenders. It provides for speeding up hijackers’ trials by allowing state governments to designate a sessions court to hold such trials with permission from the chief justice of the state’s high court. The designated court will try to hold the trial on a day-to-day basis.