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Sansad TV: Bills: An Insight- Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill, 2019

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Introduction:

The Bill enables Indian authorities to take action against piracy in the high seas. The Bill enables Indian authorities to take action against piracy in the high seas. The Bill brings into law the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  It applies to the sea beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), i.e., beyond 200 nautical miles from India’s coastline.

Pirates:

  • A pirate is a seaman, robber who attacks, seizes or destroys any ship at high seas and sometimes even harbors at the shore.
  • Besides that, they were involved in many other illegal activates like smuggling and slave trades.
  • The pirates are doing that for personal interest, without any legal rights.
  • And as those attacks were unauthorized acts, they were treated like criminals in all countries.

The Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill, 2019:

Key features:

  • Applicability of the Bill: The Bill will apply to all parts of the sea adjacent to and beyond the limits of the Exclusive Economic Zone of India.
  • Exclusive Economic Zone refers to the area of sea to which India has exclusive rights for economic activities.
  • Offences and penalties: An act of piracy will be punishable with: (i) imprisonment for life; or (ii) death, if the act of piracy includes attempted murder, or causes death.
  • An attempt to commit, aid, abet, or procure for an act of piracy, or directing others to participate in an act of piracy will be punishable with up to 14 years of imprisonment, and a fine.
  • Offences will be considered extraditable. This means that the accused can be transferred to any country for prosecution with which India has signed an extradition treaty.
  • Arrest and seizure: A ship or aircraft under the control of pirates may be seized, persons aboard may be arrested, and the property on board may also be seized.
  • Designated Court: The central government, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court, may notify the Sessions Courts to be the Designated Courts under this Bill.
  • The Designated Court will try offences committed by: (i) a person in the custody of the Indian Navy or Coast Guard, regardless of his nationality, (ii) a citizen of India, a resident foreign national in India, or a stateless person.
  • The Court will not have jurisdiction over offences committed on a foreign ship, unless an intervention is requested.
  • Presumption of guilt: The presumption of guilt will be on the accused if: (i) the accused is in possession of arms, explosives and other equipment which were used or intended for use in committing the offence, (ii) there is evidence of use of force against the ship’s crew or passengers, and (iii) there is evidence of the intended use of bombs and arms against the crew, passengers or cargo of a ship.

Important and need of this bill:

  • The government is bringing the law as part of commitment made by India while signing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982. The UNCLOS was ratified by India in 1995.
  • The introduction of the bill comes days after some 18 Indians aboard a crude oil carrier were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria
  • India does not have a separate domestic legislation on piracy.
  • The provisions of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to armed robbery and the Admiralty jurisdiction of certain courts have been invoked in the past to prosecute pirates apprehended by the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard.
  • But in the absence of any specific law relating to the offence of maritime piracy in India, problems are being faced in ensuring effective prosecution of the pirates.
  • Our penal codes are only applicable upto the territorial waters.
  • It is noted that incidents of piracy has been growing since 2008, with the Gulf of Aden seeing a major uptick in attacks by pirates from Somalia.
  • This route is used by about 2,000 ships each month for trade between Asia and Europe and East Coast of Africa. With the enhanced (international) naval presence in the Gulf of Aden, pirates shifted their area of operations eastwards and southwards.

Conclusion:

It was very important to have a domestic anti-piracy legislation to provide the necessary legal framework within the country for the prosecution of those involved in piracy-related crimes and the bill is right move in the direction.