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Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Internal Security

 

Source: The Hindu

Context: Government has come up with Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill 2019 will bring the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea into domestic law and enable Indian authorities to take action against piracy on the high seas.

  • A pirate is a seaman, or robber who attacks, seizes or destroys any ship on the high seas and sometimes even harbors at the shore.

Status:

  • India currently does not have legislation on matters of piracy on the high seas.
  • India ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1995 but was yet to enact it through the bill.

Need for the bill:

  • IPC is not valid for foreigners in international waters: Previously, pirates were prosecuted under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). However, India’s sovereignty is delimited by the outer boundary of its territorial waters— 12 nautical miles from the coast. Acts of piracy committed by a foreigner outside India’s territorial waters cannot be an offence under the IPC, and those accused in piracy cases have been acquitted due to the lack of jurisdiction.
  • Incidence of Piracy: the Gulf of Aden has been one of the deadliest areas in the oceans due to a large number of piracy incidents. Due to an increased naval presence in the Gulf of Aden, it has been observed that piracy operations are shifting towards the east and south, which increases their proximity to India’s west coast.
    • g. 18 Indians aboard a crude oil carrier were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria last year.

 

Provisions in the Bill:

  • Definition: Piracy is defined as an act of violence or detention by the crew or passengers of a private vessel or private aircraft on high seas, directed against another vessel or aircraft and/or people or property on board.
  • Extra-territorial Jurisdictions: The Bill will apply to the sea beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), that is, beyond 200 nautical miles from India’s coastline.
    • However, it is unclear if it will apply to the EEZ that extends between 12 and 200 nautical miles from the coast of India.

  • Punishment: For committing acts of piracy, the convicts shall be punished with imprisonment for life or death in case the act of piracy itself causes the death or attempts to cause the death of another person.
    • Participating in or assisting acts of piracy will be punishable with up to 14 years of imprisonment and a fine.
  • Extraditable offences: This means that the accused can be transferred to any country for prosecution with which India has signed an extradition treaty.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Issues with the Bill:

  • It is unclear how the overlap of the 14-year term and the life term will be determined since committing an act of piracy will necessarily include participation as well.
  • Issue with the death penalty: Supreme Court of India has advocated for the use of extreme punishment in the “rarest of rare” According to the top court, the death penalty violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

 

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, 1982):

  • It is an international agreement that establishes the legal framework for marine and maritime activities.
  • It divides marine areas into five main zones namely– Internal Waters, Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the High Seas.
  • It is a set of rules to govern the oceans and the use of their resources. It is based on the idea that all problems related to oceans are interrelated and need to be addressed by the global community as a whole.
  • UNCLOS governs all aspects of ocean space, including delimitation, environmental control, marine scientific research, economic and commercial activities, transfer of technology and the settlement of ocean-related disputes.

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Anti-maritime Piracy Bill