M A I N   N E W S

Securing Skies
Death for hijackers
Cabinet okays tougher law; hijacked plane can be shot down
Securing Skies
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 19
With terror threats in the aviation sector looming large, the government today decided to make the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1982 tougher by including death sentence as a punishment for hijacking a plane with intention of creating a terror strike.

A cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved the amendments to be incorporated in the existing Act, which at present only provides for life imprisonment and fine.

Government sources said there was stiff resistance from several members on including death penalty as punishment in the Act. However, there was a strong counterpoint favouring capital punishment, especially in present day scenario when aircrafts are being used for terrorist activity and unreasonable demands like Kandahar.

“The decision was taken keeping in mind international laws and current global scenario,” they said, adding that the government was likely to place the proposed amendments before the Parliament after the House meets following the recess. However, for any other person, who may be mentally upset or has forcibly entered a plane, but not with the intent to create terror, the punishment will be lesser. The new clause also covers the aspect of conspiracy to hijack a plane. The amendments would also permit the Indian Air Force to launch fighters to stop the hijacked plane from taking off from the Indian soil and forcing it to land if in the Indian airspace.

The anti-hijack policy that was revised and approved by the Cabinet Committee for Security in 2005 could not be made a law primarily due to lack of consensus on the punishment for the hijacker, having intent of creating terror strike and caught alive.

The Group of Ministers headed by Law Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj in the previous UPA government could not come to a conclusion on this issue. In May 2009, another GoM headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram was formed that examined proposals to amend the existing Act to include these aspects as also the conspiracy to hijack an aircraft.

The policy also has provision for immobilisation of the plane and disallowing it to take off, if the hijack occurs on the Indian soil. Notably, during the Kandahar hijack in December 1999, in which passengers and crew members were exchanged for four dreaded terrorists, security forces had failed to immobilise the plane when it had landed at the Amritsar airport. The CCS, in August 2005, had cleared the proposal to shoot down a commercial plane if it was hijacked. It also strictly ruled out any negotiations with hijackers on meeting any of their demands.

According to the policy, if a rogue aircraft paid no heed to ATC warnings and deviated from its specified path or headed towards any strategic spot such as Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate or Parliament House, a decision on shooting it down would come into play. In case of an emergency situation, the shoot down orders could be given by the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister or the Home Minister, whoever could be contacted first. The policy also stated that fighter aircraft would escort any plane that was hijacked, forcing it to land at the nearest airport. The jets would escort the plane all time it was within the Indian airspace. According to the directive, the hijacked plane must be stopped from taking off once it had landed in an Indian airport. 



HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |