A tough new anti-hijacking
law that prescribes capital punishment for perpetrators in the event of the death of "any person" has come into force following a government notification.
The 2016 Anti-Hijacking
Act replaces a 1982-vintage law, under which hijackers could be tried for the death penalty only in the event of the death of hostages, such as flight crew, passengers, and security personnel.
Under the new law, the perpetrators can be tried for the death penalty for causing the death of "security personnel on board" or "ground support staff" as well.
Why is a tougher law required?
of Indian Airlines Flight 814, or IC 814, in 1999 still has consequences for the nation. In the aftermath, three high-profile militants – Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar – walked free after the then government was forced to trade them for the hostages, one of whom was killed during the whole affair.
Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Masood Azhar, in particular, remains a thorn in India's side. He stands accused of being the mastermind behind the 2016 terrorist attack
on the Indian Air Force airbase in Pathankot.
Aside from prescribing the death penalty in the case of the death of "any person", even if the perpetrator has not killed anyone, the guilty will be punished with imprisonment for life and fine, besides confiscation of movable and immovable property held by him or her under the new law.
The new law, which came into effect after its notification on July 5, expands the definition of hijacking, including making a threat, attempts or abetment to commit the offence.
According to an NDTV
report, an attack on an aircraft while it is being prepared for a flight or even up to 24 hours after it has landed will come under the ambit of this new law. The report adds that attacks using biological agents, the impact of which could be delayed, will also fall under the ambit of the new law.
Further, those who organise or direct others to commit such offence will also be considered to have committed the offence of hijacking.
The new law mandates the central government to confer powers of investigation, arrest, and prosecution on any officer of the central government or National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The Bill to repeal the 1982 Anti-Hijacking
Act was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on December 17, 2014.
After a few days, it was referred to a parliamentary panel, which gave its report in March 2015. The Bill was passed on May 4, 2016, in the Upper House and on May 9, 2016, in the Lok Sabha. According to NDTV, the delay in notification was caused by the government not having framed the required rules till now.