A bill seeking stringent punishment including death penalty for hijackers and giving right to security forces to shoot down an aircraft, which may be used as a missile, was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
The Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill 2014 was introduced by Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju after he withdrew a similar bill of 2010 amid din over demand for reply by the prime minister to debate on rising incidents of communal violence.
The new legislation to amend the anti-hijack law has been brought to incorporate latest global treaties like the Beijing Protocol, 2010 of the United Nations body International Civil Aviation Organisation, which have been signed and ratified by India.
The protocol, which provides for stringent measures to deal with civilian aircraft being used as a weapon of mass destruction by terrorists, was brought about after incidents like the hijack of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999 and the September 11, 2001 terror strikes in the United States.
The earlier bill, which has now been withdrawn, did not contain such stringent measures to deal with hijacking as the Beijing Protocol and other global agreements came later.
The Anti-Hijacking Act 1982, which is now sought to be amended, provides for imprisonment for life and fine for the offence of hijacking.
The erstwhile United Progressive Alliance government had last year decided to withdraw the 2010 bill and incorporate the fresh changes and bring a new legislation to amend the 1982 law.
Besides death penalty for hijackers, the proposed law would give teeth to concerned agencies and security forces to immobilise an aircraft and allow the Indian Air Force to scramble its fighters to intercept a hijacked aircraft and force it to land.
A hostile plane could also be shot down if there is evidence that it could be used as a missile to hit a vital installation.
The legislation provides that anyone, alone or in concert with others, who commit 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 also proposes to give powers to the agencies and forces for stern action against those making phone calls and doling out hoax threats, they said.
Image: Armed soldiers from the Taliban militia take up positions near the hijacked IC-814 aircraft