‘Definition of what constitutes hijacking needs to be widened'

A Parliamentary Standing Committee has favoured the death penalty for hijackers as it was “the need of the hour and unavoidable in the heightened threat of such a daring crime”. It has called for an amendment to the 1982 Anti-Hijacking Act to include capital punishment.

The report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture on the Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill 2010, headed by Sitaram Yechury of CPI (Marxist), was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday. The proposed law comes more than a decade after the 1999-hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 to Kandahar, in which the government was forced to release jailed terrorists.

The Committee said capital punishment must be awarded to conspirators and abettors whose actions resulted in the death of hostages or security personnel. It, however, raised the question whether opportunities for negotiation or settlements might be foreclosed if the hijackers knew they would invariably get capital punishment. Similarly, the Committee said, it was unclear whether the death penalty would be applicable for hijackers who had caused fatalities or to all hijackers in general.

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

Referring to the issue of what constituted a hijack or seizure of an aircraft ‘in flight,' the Committee wondered why cases of forced entry into aircraft, or its being taken over when on the taxiway with or without passengers, or during pre-flight checking, were not included in the definition. It recommended that the definition of hijacking “be widened to include such situations also.”

Observing that the grant of compensation was time-consuming, as it involved a lot of litigation and procedures, the Committee said a stand-alone law on hijacking should include all aspects related or incidental to the act of hijacking in this legislation itself.

It asked the government to consider the necessary provisions in the Bill for granting compensation to the victims.