The Rajya Sabha passed the Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill after the approval of Lok Sabha for cooperation and repression of piracy in high seas.
Till now, India does not have a domestic legislation on maritime piracy.
In the past, provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) pertaining to armed robbery and the admiralty jurisdiction of certain courts have been invoked to prosecute pirates. However, the sovereignty of India extends only up to the territorial waters of India (12 nautical miles from the coastline).
Piratical acts by a foreigner committed outside the territorial waters of India do not constitute an offence under the IPC.
For example, in the Alondra Rainbow case (1999), the Mumbai High Court acquitted the accused on grounds that India did not have the jurisdiction to prosecute them.
In 1995, India ratified the UNCLOS, which gives a uniform international legal framework for combatting acts of piracy. Consequently, the Piracy Bill, 2012 was introduced in Lok Sabha in April 2012.
The 2012 Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.
The Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 9, 2019, and has been referred to the Standing Committee on External Affairs for detailed examination.
No it has been passed by both the houses of the Parliament.
Key highlights of the Bill:
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.
The Bill defines piracy ‘as any illegal act of violence, detention or destruction against a ship, aircraft, person or property, for private purposes, by the crew or passengers of a private ship or aircraft.’
Piracy also includes inciting and intentionally facilitating such acts of violence, and voluntarily participating in the operation of a pirate ship or aircraft.
Committing an act of piracy will be punishable with:
life imprisonment; or
Death, if the act of piracy causes or seeks to cause death.
Participating, organising, aiding, supporting, attempting to commit, and directing others to participate in an act of piracy will be punishable with up to 14 years of imprisonment, and a fine.
Key Issues and Analysis:
Under the Bill, if a person, while committing an act of piracy causes or seeks to cause death, he will be punished with death. This implies a mandatory death penalty for such offences.
The Supreme Court has held that mandatory death penalty for any offence is unconstitutional as it violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. However, Parliament has passed laws providing for mandatory death penalty for some offences.
The Bill provides for imprisonment of up to 14 years if a person participates in an act of piracy. Committing an act of piracy (which includes voluntarily participating in the operation of a pirate ship or aircraft) is punishable with life imprisonment.
As these circumstances may overlap, it is unclear how the punishment would be determined in such cases.
The Bill will apply to all parts of the sea adjacent to and beyond the limits of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of India, i.e., beyond 200 nautical miles from the coastline.
The question is whether the Bill should cover the EEZ also, that is the area between 12 nautical miles and 200 nautical miles (from the coastline of India).