The government on Friday cleared proposals to make the anti-hijacking law more stringent by including the death penalty.

“The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal of the Civil Aviation Ministry to amend the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1982,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told journalists after a meeting.

She said the UPA-I had constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) on the issue. After UPA-II took over, a new GoM, headed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, gave the final shape to the proposals. The GoM included M. Veerappa Moily (Law), Kapil Sibal (Human Resource Development) and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel (Civil Aviation).

Sections 3 and 4 of the Act, which deal with the definition of hijack and punishment for the offence are proposed to be amended to include the death penalty. Currently, the law provides for life imprisonment and a fine.

The GoM earlier examined the proposals to amend the law to include these aspects as well as conspiracy.

During the UPA I regime, the government worked out a policy to provide for shooting down an aircraft once it was established that the plane was hijacked and that the hijackers intended targeting a vital installation by using it as a missile as it happened in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001.

No negotiation

The policy, which was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security during the last UPA government, also provides for immobilisation of the plane and disallowing it to take off if the hijack occurs on Indian soil. It opposes any negotiation with the hijackers on their demands.

These provisions were aimed at countering situations like the hijack of an Indian Airlines plane in December 1999 to Kandahar. In that episode, 178 passengers and 11 crew members were swapped for four dreaded terrorists, who were freed and taken to Kandahar. The security forces failed to immobilise the plane when it landed at the Amritsar airport.

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