Only causing death should fetch noose for hijackers: Panel

October 31st, 2010 - 2:47 pm ICT by IANS  

By Rana Ajit
New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) Will the death penalty for plane hijackers act as a deterrent or shut all doors for negotiation with them? And what if the hijackers are on a suicide mission? Keeping all this in mind, a lawmakers’ panel has approved the death penalty for hijackers, but only if they are directly responsible for the death of passengers.

The recommendation has been made by a parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture in its report after examining the Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2010.

The report was submitted to the Rajya Sabha Oct 18.

“The committee feels that the proposed amendment (for death penalty to hijackers) is the need of the hour and unavoidable in the heightened threat for such a daring crime,” said the panel, headed by Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechuri, in its report.

“The committee endorses the proposed amendment to provide for capital punishment, apart from the hijackers, to the conspirators and abettors also,” the report said.

While approving the provision of death penalty in the Anti-Hijacking Bill 1982, the panel kept in mind whether making capital punishment mandatory for all hijackers would not end all avenues of negotiation with them to save the lives of passengers.

“The committee notices that the proposed amendment is not clear whether the death penalty will be applicable to only those hijackers who kill hostages/security men or to all hijackers,” the panel noted.

“The committee is of the opinion that if the death penalty is a foregone conclusion for the offence of hijacking, the opportunities for any negotiation or settlement to save the lives of the passengers may be foreclosed,” it added.

“What about the safety of passengers and crew when the hijackers are sure that they will get the death penalty for their offence? Will the death penalty really act as a deterrent to those hijackers who do it as a suicide mission?” it asked itself.

After examining the issue, the panel recommended: “The committee recommends that death penalty must be made applicable to those offenders whose action results in the death of hostages/security men during the act of hijacking.”

The panel also wanted the civil aviation ministry to widen the ambit of the offence, which the Anti-Hijacking Act 1982 defines as “seizing or exercising control of an aircraft, unlawfully, by force or threat of force or by any other way of intimidation on board an aircraft in flight”.

And the term “in flight” has been defined as “starting from the moment external doors of the aircraft are closed followed by embarkation till the moment they are opened again for disembarkation.”

Disapproving of this definition of hijacking, the panel said: “The definition of aircraft movement from door-closure to door-opening does not include the forced entry into aircraft and its takeover when the aircraft is on the taxiway at the airport with or without passengers or when pre-flight checking of the aircraft is in progress.”

“The committee is of the view that the definition of hijacking needs to be widened to include such situations also,” it said.

(Rana Ajit can be contacted at rana.ajit@ians.in)

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