Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill

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    • Recently, Rajya Sabha passed the Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill to combat maritime piracy.

    Key Points

    • The Bill will provide for:
      • An effective legal instrument to combat maritime piracy. 
      • Stringent punishment to those convicted of such crimes.
      • The issue of death penalty as an “exceptional case” and the quantum of punishments envisaged are in line with the gravity of offences.
    • Need of the Bill:
      • Increasing involvement of crew members:
        • Between 2008 and 2011 – 27 maritime incidents, with 288 Indian nationals involved. 
        • Between 2014 and 2022 – 19 piracy cases with 155 Indian crew members involved.
      • Applicability: 
        • IPC is not valid for foreigners in international waters i.e., beyond 12 nautical miles.
      • Piracy: 
        • Incidences of piracy operations are shifting towards the east and south, which increases their proximity to India’s west coast.

    Comparison of Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill, 2019 & 2022 Amendments

     

     

    Bill, 2019

    2022 Amendments

    Applicability of the

    Bill

     

    The Bill applies to all parts of the sea adjacent to and beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of India, i.e., beyond 200 nautical miles from the coastline.

    The Bill will apply to high seas which includes EEZ and all waters beyond the jurisdiction of any other state (country other than India)

    Punishment for Piracy

    Penalty for committing any act of piracy: (i) imprisonment for life, or (ii) death, if the act or attempt of piracy includes attempted murder, or causes death. 

    The penalty is being amended to: 

    (i) imprisonment which may extend to imprisonment for life, or fine, or both, or 

    (ii) death or imprisonment for life, if the act or attempt of piracy includes attempted murder, or causes death.

    Punishment for attempt to commit or aid piracy

    Up to 14 years of imprisonment and a fine  

    up to 10 years of imprisonment, or fine, or both.

    Punishment for participating, organising or directing others to commit piracy

    Up to 14 years and a fine. 

    up to 14 years, or fine, or both

    Personnel authorised for arrest and seizure

    (i) a warship or military aircraft of the Indian Navy, 

    (ii) a ship or aircraft of the India Coast Guard, or 

    (iii) ships or aircraft on government service, and authorised for such purpose. 

    Only authorised personnel may carry out arrest and seizure. These personnel include: 

    (i) officers and sailors assigned to warships or military aircraft of Indian Navy, or 

    (ii) officers and enrolled persons of Coast Guard, 

    (iii) officers of the central or state government authorised for any ship or aircraft. 

    Power to carry out arrest and seizure on grounds of suspicion 

    Bill provides for arrest and seizure of a pirate ship or aircraft, by: (i) a warship or military aircraft of the Indian Navy, (ii) a ship or aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard, or (iii) ships or aircraft on government service, and authorised for such purpose. 

     

    Only authorised personnel may carry out arrest and seizure. These personnel include: (i) officers and sailors assigned to warships or military aircraft of Indian Navy, or (ii) officers and enrolled persons of Coast Guard, (iii) officers of the central or state government authorised for any ship or aircraft. It adds that Authorised Personnel may carry out arrest and seizure on grounds of suspicion.

    Disposing seized property

    Nothing mentioned in the Bill

    The ship or property seized will be disposed of only by a Court order. 

    Jurisdiction of Designated Court

    Territorial jurisdiction of designated courts will be specified by the central government after consulting with the Chief Justice of India.

    Adds that port or place of disembarkation within India of the person suspected or accused will be taken into account while deciding jurisdiction of the Court.

    Power of Designated Court to try a person while absent from the Court 

    Court may try a person even if the person is not physically present in the Court. 

    Provision deleted

    People who may carry out piracy

    The Bill defines piracy as any illegal act of violence, detention, or destruction committed against a ship, aircraft, person or property, for private purposes, by the crew or  passengers

    of a private ship or aircraft.

    Adds ‘any person’ under the definition of people who may carry out piracy.

    Definition of ship

    Was not explained in the Bill

    Defines ship as (i) vessel or water craft, and (ii) seaplanes

    and other aircraft capable of being used as means of

    transportation in water.

    Significance

    • In the absence of a specific law or a legal provision in the Indian Penal Code or the Criminal Procedure Code on piracy, this Bill would provide an effective legal instrument to combat maritime piracy. 
      • It would enable discharge of obligations under the UNCLOS which India had signed in 1982 and ratified in 1995.
    • Ensuring maritime security is key to safeguarding India’s security and economic well-being.
      • The security of sea lanes of communication is critical as more than 90 percent of India’s trade takes place by sea routes and more than 80 percent of the country’s hydrocarbon requirements was sea-borne.

    Concerns

    • Use of Death Penalty: Section 3 of the Bill provides that if a pirate causes death or makes an attempt to cause death, he shall be punished with the death penalty. Even the Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not permit death sentences where an attempt has been made which might result in causing death.
    • Difficulty in Extradition: The Bill provides for presumption of guilt of the accused in case certain conditions are satisfied, for example recovery of arms and ammunition from possession of the accused, evidence of use of force in connection with offence, etc. Members said extradition of the accused may be difficult due to this provision.
    • Issues regarding geographical applicability of the Bill: Controversies exist over overlapping jurisdiction of territorial waters, i.e. 12 nautical miles and EEZ i.e. 200 nautical miles.

    Way Ahead

    • The government should consult the security experts and other stakeholders to draft a comprehensive and compact bill, which can be implemented smoothly.

     

    United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

    • The convention is also sometimes referred to as the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty. 
    • UNCLOS came into operation and became effective from 16th November 1982.
    • India became a signatory to the UNCLOS in 1982.
    • It replaced the four Geneva Conventions of April, 1958, which respectively concerned the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, the continental shelf, the high seas, fishing and conservation of living resources on the high seas.
    • As per UNCLOS, the sea is divided into 4 parts:
      • Territorial waters
      • Contiguous Zone
      • Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
      • Continental Shelf
    • It defines a distance of 12 nautical miles (approx. 22 km) from the baseline as Territorial Sea limit and a distance of 200 nautical miles distance as Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) limit.
      • EEZ is an area of the sea in which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

    Source: IE