The Lok Sabha on 9 May 2016 passed the Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2014. The Bill seeks to repeal The Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982.
It gives effect to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, 1970 and it’s Protocol Supplementary, signed on 10 September 2010.
The Bill provides for the death penalty even if ground handling staff and airport personnel are killed during such acts. In the previous Bill, hijackers could be tried for the death penalty only in the event of death of hostages, such as flight crew, passengers and security personnel.
With this, both the houses of parliament passed the bill. Rajya Sabha passed the bill on 4 May 2016 after it was introduced by the Minister of Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju on 17 December 2014.
Now, the bill will be sent to the President for his assent.
Highlights of the bill
Definition of hijacking: it defines hijacking as seizing control of an aircraft in service, unlawfully and intentionally, by technological means or by exercising force, coercion, or any other form of intimidation.
Related offences: The Bill includes several acts within the definition of hijacking including:
(i) Attempt and abetment of hijacking
(ii) Making a credible threat to commit hijacking
(iii) Organising or directing others to commit hijacking
(iv) Agreeing with another to commit the offence, and acting on the agreement; etc.
Punishment for hijacking and related offences: The Bill provides for
(i) Death penalty, where the offence results in death of hostage or security personnel
(ii) Life imprisonment in all other case
(iii) Moveable and immoveable property of the accused may be confiscated. For any acts of violence committed in connection with the hijacking, the accused shall be punished with the same punishment as provided under the laws in force.
Jurisdiction: It says that Indian courts can exercise jurisdiction on several grounds including where the offence is committed:
(i) In India
(ii) Against an aircraft registered in India
(iii) On board an aircraft which lands in India with the accused still on board
(iv) By or against an Indian citizen
(v) By a person who is present in India and is not extradited by the central government, and others.
Previous sanction for prosecution: The Bill requires that sanction must be taken from the union government before prosecuting an accused for hijacking or related offences.
Investigation, arrest, bail, etc.: The union government may confer powers of investigation, arrest and prosecution on any officer of the central government or the National Investigation Agency.
An investigating officer can order seizure or attachment of property which is related to the offence, and is likely to be concealed or disposed of by the accused.
Where an accused is forwarded to a Magistrate to authorise detention because investigation could not be completed within 24 hours, a Judicial Magistrate may authorise detention up to 30 days. An Executive Magistrate may authorise detention up to seven days.
With regard to bail, an accused cannot be released on bail or bond unless:
(i) The public prosecutor has had an opportunity to oppose the release
(ii) If the release has been opposed, the designated court is satisfied that there is reason to believe the accused is innocent and is unlikely to commit any offence while on bail.
Trial by designated courts: The accused person shall be tried by a Sessions Court which is notified to be a designated court by the concerned state government.
In case the investigation is carried out by the National Investigation Agency, the designated court shall be a court set up under the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008. The designated court shall have the power to order for attachment of the accused person’s properties.
Presumption of guilt: The court will presume the accused to be guilty if the prosecution establishes either
(i) Arms, ammunition or explosives were recovered from the accused and there is reason to believe that similar arms, etc. were used in the hijacking.
(ii) There is evidence of use of intimidation against the crew or passengers in connection with the hijacking.
Extradition: Hijacking and the related offences shall be extraditable. Extraditable offences are those offences for which one country many transfer the accused to another country’s legal jurisdiction.
No request for extradition shall be refused on the ground that hijacking is a political offence or is connected to a political offence.
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