In an increasingly globalised and interconnected world, aviation has become a crucial global transportation mode connecting people and nations. However, susceptibility to the current security threats has increased considerably. Hijacking is one of the most dreaded occurrences. Therefore, governments worldwide have endeavoured to strengthen aviation security and ensure the safety of passengers and personnel.
The introduction of the Anti-Hijacking Act by the Indian government in 2016 is an example of such measures. This law is a foundation in the legal framework governing aviation security issues and aims to combat hijacking and safeguard the integrity of civil aviation.
The primary purpose of the Anti-Hijacking Bill of 2016 was to address the evolving nature of hijacking threats and provide an adequate legal mechanism for combating such criminal acts. Section 3(1) of the Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016 defines hijacking as: Whoever unlawfully and intentionally seizes or exercises control of an aircraft in service by force or threat thereof, or by coercion, or by any other form of intimidation, or by any technological means, commits the offence of hijacking.
Therefore, the Act ensures the commitment of the government to safeguard the well-being and protect its citizens as well as the commitment of the nation to global aviation security norms and standards.
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Anti-Hijacking Bill 2016
The Anti-Hijacking Act of 2016 was a significant measure implemented by the Indian government to enhance aviation security and safeguard its airspace from the threat of hijacking. In response to the evolving nature of aviation threats, this comprehensive legislation was enacted to provide Indian authorities with a robust legal framework to combat hijacking incidents effectively.
The primary objective of the Act was to implement the principles of the Hague Convention also known as the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft. This Convention established the principle of aut dedere aut judicare, which mandates that a signatory state must either prosecute an aircraft hijacker within its jurisdiction or extradite the offender to another state for prosecution. By ratifying this Convention, India demonstrated its commitment to international cooperation in the battle against threats to aviation security.
In addition to the Hague Convention, the Anti-Hijacking Act of 2016 considered the 2010 Beijing Protocol to the Convention. This protocol amended and supplemented the original Convention and entered into force on January 1, 2018.
To implement the Hague Convention and its Supplemental Protocol, the Indian Parliament passed the Anti-Hijacking Act 2016. This law provided a legal basis for implementing international agreements and ensured that hijackers would be prosecuted in India if no other state requested their extradition for prosecution.
Furthermore, the Act defined several other terms, including agency, aircraft, military aircraft, security personnel, and hostages, essential to aviation security. These precise definitions were crucial for establishing a shared understanding and interpretation of the law, contributing to its practical application and enforcement.
One of the initial rulings made under the current Act involved the case of Birju Kishorekumar Salla versus the State of Gujarat . In this case, Mr Salla was proven guilty of leaving a threatening note on a Jet Airways aircraft for peculiar reasons.
The intent behind the message was not to hijack the plane but rather an attempt to compel his girlfriend, who happened to be an employee at the company, to relocate to Mumbai under the false assumption that the airline would shut down due to the note. The court found him accountable for his actions, as the pilot had to make an emergency landing due to the alarming note. Consequently, Mr Salla was placed on the no-fly list and fined Rs. 5 crores.
History of the Act
The Indian Anti-Hijacking Act 2016 can be traced to the country’s historical hijacking incidents. As the 20th century drew to a close, the increasing frequency of such incidents demanded an effective legal mechanism to address this security threat. The Act was intended to modernise and strengthen existing aviation security laws, aligning them with international standards and global aviation security conventions.
In India, the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982 was initially enacted to prevent the unlawful appropriation of Indian-registered aircraft. This Act targeted attempts by individuals on board a plane to seize control of the aircraft through force or threat for unlawful purposes.
However, a turning point came in 1999 with the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814, which exposed the weaknesses in the existing legislation and the necessity for a robust anti-hijack policy. The increasing threat of aircraft hijacking by rebellious organisations compelled lawmakers to re-evaluate existing legislation and address evolving security requirements.
The Minister of Civil Aviation, Mr Ashok Gajapati Raju, submitted the Anti-Hijacking Bill of 2014 in the Rajya Sabha, signifying the commencement of legislative actions addressing the relevant matter. On May 9, 2016, the Lok Sabha successfully passed the Bill. Parliament supported the Anti-Hijacking Act of 2016 to enforce international conventions, specifically the Hague Convention of 1971 and the Beijing Protocol of 2010.
The Anti-Hijacking Act 2016, incorporates several provisions to ensure effective implementation and address various scenarios related to aviation security threats. These provisions are designed to widen the scope of the Act, establish jurisdiction, and provide legal clarity in certain situations. The following provisions are explained:
- Universal Jurisdiction: The Act has jurisdiction outside India. Thus, the act can be used even if the attack happened outside India. The Act is used when the plane is registered in India or leased to an Indian company and is also applicable when the perpetrator is an Indian citizen or has no country but resides in India. The Act covers crimes against Indian people.
Expanding the Scope of Hijacking: The primary objective of the present given Act is to broaden the parameters of the offence of ‘hijacking‘ by criminalising issuing a threat to perform a hijacking. The objective of this alteration was to ensure that any attempts or declarations to take control of an aircraft would be regarded as grave offences. This measure would provide the government with a legal means for preventing hijackings.
Furthermore, the revised definition states that the Act of seizing or controlling an aircraft can be accomplished using technology. This implies that perpetrators are not required to physically board the aircraft to seize control; instead, they can employ technological tools to strategise and take over the aircraft remotely. According to this provision of the legislation, individuals who accompany hijackers, assist them, or aid in their evasion of law enforcement and subsequent legal consequences are also subject to accountability and legal liability.
- Offences of Organising or Abetting Hijacking: The Act also covers people organising or supporting other people in committing hijacking. Individuals who plan or assist hijackers will be deemed guilty of abetting hijacking and may face legal consequences.
- Central Government’s Powers: The legislation confers authority upon the Central Government to conduct investigations, effectuate arrests, and initiate legal proceedings against officials affiliated with either the Central Government or the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the event of suspected complicity in acts of hijacking.
- Bail: Section 12 of the legislation addresses the provisions about bail and stipulates that offences committed under this Act are deemed non-bailable, unless the opportunity has been granted to the public prosecutor to contest the request for release. In cases in which the public prosecutor opposes the application, the designated court must ascertain reasonable grounds to believe that the accused is innocent of the alleged offence and that the likelihood of them committing any further crimes while on bail is minimal.
- Good Faith: Good faith means that a person believes or plans to act honestly, fairly, and truthfully. Section 17 of the Anti-Hijacking Act of 2016 states that any person who does something in good faith or follows the Act’s rules is protected from any legal consequences, such as lawsuits, prosecutions, and other legal actions. The Central Government receives the same protection when it is hurt or is likely to be hurt when working in good faith or according to the rules of this law.
Punishment for Offence
The Anti-Hijacking Act of 2016 encompasses provisions for imposing stringent and effective penalties and guaranteeing the well-being of passengers and crew personnel. Section 4 of the present given Act defines the specific penalties for the Act of hijacking, including two noteworthy additions, namely capital punishment and life imprisonment.
- According to Section 4 of the Act, in situations when the Act of hijacking results in the unfortunate loss of life of a hostage, security personnel, or an individual not directly involved in the activity, the offender is liable to receive the death penalty.
- Additionally, the Act mandates life imprisonment for the instances of hijacking that do not lead to any loss of life.
- The proposed legislation aims to establish punishment for genuine cases of hijacking and fake threats that are convincingly authentic. In both cases, the offender may also be liable to monetary penalties.
The global aviation business requires enhanced security measures in light of the alarming prevalence of hijacking incidents, which have profoundly affected the international community. Therefore, the enactment of the Anti-Hijacking Act of 2016 in India is a testament to the nation’s dedication towards aviation security and safeguarding its airspace against such hijacking incidents.
The present legislation was carefully constructed to establish a robust legal structure for combating hijackings in a dynamic environment characterised by constantly developing tactics employed by perpetrators. Moreover, India has expressed dedication to global collaboration in addressing aviation security challenges through its adherence to international agreements, including the Hague Convention and the Beijing Protocol.
By implementing the Anti-Hijacking Act of 2016, the Indian government demonstrated a proactive approach aimed at enhancing aviation security, fostering public confidence, and reinforcing international cooperation in the global effort to combat hijacking incidents. The current legislation is the basis of India’s legal framework governing aviation security.
FAQs About the Anti-Hijacking Act 2016
Does the present Act protect individuals acting in good faith?
Such people are protected from claims, prosecutions, and other legal action as stated under section 17 of the Anti hijacking Act, 2016. The Central Government is provided with equivalent security in cases where any harm is caused sincerely or in compliance with the regulations outlined in the Act.
Is it possible to hold individuals who help or assist hijackers liable under the present Act?
Yes, the Act imposes responsibility on individuals who assist hijackers, including people who accompany them, offer assistance, or assist them in evading law enforcement.
Does the Act exclusively apply to the jurisdiction of India?
The Act's applicability extends beyond India’s territorial boundaries, including situations in which the aircraft is registered within India or is under lease by an Indian company, as well as instances when the crime is committed against an Indian citizen.
What is the scope of Section 4 of the Anti-Hijacking Act of 2016?
Section 4 of the Act outlines specific penalties for hijacking offences. In addition to fines and confiscation of the movable and immovable property of the offender, it also imposes the death penalty, life imprisonment, and a monetary penalty.