With terror threats from skies looming large, the Union Cabinet approved a proposal of a civil aviation ministry to amend the anti-hijacking Act of 1982. Sections 3 & 4 of the Act, which deal with the definition of hijack and punishment for hijacking are proposed to be amended to include death penalty. Currently the law provides for life imprisonment and a fine as punishments for hijacking.
There are some other proposed changes like:
- Providing a legal backing for any extraordinary move like shooting down an aircraft whose hijack has been established and the hijackers have intentions to target vital installation by using it as a missile like it had happened in New York on 9/11.
- The policy also provides for immobilization of the aircraft and disallowing it to take off if the hijack takes place on the Indian soil.
- Authorizing the Indian Air Force to take quick steps to scramble fighters to guard and guide hijacked aircraft and force land it in an Indian airport.
- No negotiation with hijackers on demands.
- The Group of Ministers had also decided to incorporate a new clause to cover the aspect of conspiracy to hijack an aircraft which does not exist in the 1982 Act.
The Central Government will in all probability put forward the proposed amendments in the second phase of the Budget Session of Parliament.
This step taken by the Centre comes almost ten years after the hijacking of Indian Airlines’ flight IC-814 to Kandahar. During the Kandahar hijack in December 1999, 178 passengers and 11 crew members were exchanged for four dreaded terrorists, including Maulana Masood Azhar who later floated the terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
These amendments are indeed a welcome step and will surely provide strong deterrence to hijacking.