External affairs minister S. Jaishankar on Monday introduced a bill in Parliament that provides for stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those involved in piracy at sea. The introduction of the bill comes days after some 18 Indians aboard a crude oil carrier were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria. India is still negotiating the release of its nationals.
The Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill 2019 is aimed at promoting the safety and security of India’s maritime trade, and the safety of its crew members. A text of the bill available on the Lok Sabha website said the government’s aim in drafting the proposed legislation was to keep up with India’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which concluded in 1982. India had ratified the UNCLOS in 1995.
The text of the legislation regarding death penalty says India does not have a separate legislation dealing in piracy, despite the fact that many Indian nationals fall prey to the menace. 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, it adds. “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.”
Section three of the bill says that “whoever commits any act of piracy, shall be punished (i) with imprisonment for life; or (ii) with death, if such person in committing the act of piracy causes death or an attempt thereof.” The provision of the death penalty was objected to by the Opposition Congress’s Shashi Tharoor, who was of the view that the “automatic” award of the death penalty for acts of piracy was against the law.