The hijacking of the Indian aircraft IC-814 in 1999 and the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. in 2001 have highlighted the possibility of aircrafts being used as missiles. Such deadly incidents have raised the necessity of having strong laws to tackle the crime of hijacking.
A new law the Anti-hijacking Act of 2016 has been introduced by the Indian government which has been developed on the basis of the previous 1982 anti-hijacking law.
The government had felt that the punishment provided in the 1982 law were not sufficiently stringent and also that the law was not broad enough to tackle new threats arising from changes in technology.
New Law Introduces Death Penalty
The newly enacted law has updated and replaced most of the provisions of the earlier legislation, and has introduced death penalty for those convicted under its provisions.
It is slated to follow the objectives laid down in the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft . The new Act has also integrated the Beijing Protocol Supplementary September 2010 which is said to address ‘unlawful acts against civil aviation by new types of threats’.
Several provisions have been included to address necessary preventive measures against all sorts of hostile acts that seek to take over control of an aircraft putting at risk the safety of people and property.
Under Section 4 of the Act in cases where the hijacking causes the death of any person who is related to the aircraft either directly or indirectly will face death penalty.
Alternatively, the sentence could be life imprisonment. The law has made it clear that the life imprisonment sentence is for until “the remainder of that person’s natural life’, and there are no options for its relaxation.
Definition of Hijacking Expanded
The new legislation has amended the Section 3 of the 1982 law to expand the definition of hijacking and it now states that a hijacking refers to the seizure or take over of an aircraft by the use of any technology. This implies that it includes even those attacks wherein the hijacker is not physically found inside the aircraft to control it.
An aircraft is seen to be as being ‘in-service’ from the time the ground staff begins its pre take-off preparations up until 24 hours after it lands.
Importantly the Act has now included under the definition of hijacking even a credible ‘threat’ to take over of an aircraft. The updated definition additionally includes
- attempts made to commit the crime,
- all forms of abetting, organizing, or participating in the attempt as an accomplice
- “unlawfully and intentionally” aiding persons involved in hijacking in order to evade investigation or prosecution or punishment.
These provisions ensure that even people who don’t actually participate but “direct” others become equally liable.