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Death for hijack on the cards

New Delhi, Aug. 20: A draft bill providing for death penalty to hijackers and empowering security forces to shoot down aircraft that could be used as a missile to hit vital installations may be brought in Parliament’s next session.

“The civil aviation and law ministries are taking a fresh look at the much-delayed anti-hijacking (amendment) bill to amend the 1982 act and bring it in tune with international legislation and resolutions,” civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said today.

“There is a bill already introduced in the Rajya Sabha (in 2010). But since then, the definition of hijack has changed globally. So, in line with those changes and practices world-wide, a fresh draft is being prepared.”

Government officials said the draft bill would be introduced in Parliament after it was cleared by the cabinet. “In the next session, we will be in a position to take it through,” said Raju.

The Centre’s efforts to incorporate elements from global anti-hijack legislation and update the Indian law are, however, gathering pace almost 15 years after the 1999 hijack of Air India Flight IC-814 to Kandahar. The September 11, 2001, terror strikes in the US, in which hijacked airliners were used as missiles to crash into the Twin Towers, are also being kept in mind.

The draft bill proposes to enhance the scope of the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, by including death penalty for hijackers, sources said. At present, hijacking is punishable with imprisonment for life and a fine.

The bill would give teeth to agencies or security forces to immobilise a hostile aircraft and empower the Indian Air Force to intercept a hijacked aircraft and force it to land. A hostile plane could also be shot down if there was evidence that it could be used as a missile to hit a vital installation, the sources said.

The legislation would ensure that anyone, alone or in concert with others, who committed acts like seizure or control of an aircraft by force or any form of intimidation would be deemed to have committed the offence of hijacking.

It would also empower agencies and security forces to take stern action against those making hoax threat calls.

The bill, pending in the Rajya Sabha since August 2010 after a standing committee on transport gave its recommendations, was cleared by the cabinet headed by Manmohan Singh in March 2010.

In its report, the standing committee endorsed the provision to award capital punishment to abettors and conspirators committing any act defined as hijacking. A group of ministers headed by then home minister P. Chidambaram had pushed the measure.