The Anti- Hijacking Act, 2016: Background, Objectives & Salient Features

In civil aviation, hijacking or the unlawful seizure of an aircraft has been a persistent threat to the security of the passengers. Significantly, the occurrences of hijacking escalate in the early ’70s, and thus, to address this concern several countries sought to have a specific convention on the hijacking. Therefore, the request was made to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) by the sixteenth assembly of the ICAO in September 1968 to formulate laws as soon as possible to tackle the issue of hijacking.

However, India in 2005 implemented the “No Negotiation Policy” towards the events of the hijacking of aircraft. Thereafter, in 2016 the Anti- Hijacking Act was promulgated and on 5th July 2017, it was enforced.

Historical Background

In India, an Act was approved by the Parliament in 1982 for the prevention of unlawful appropriation of the aircraft registered in India. It was called the Anti- Hijacking Act of 1982. As per the provisions of the Act, the offence of Hijacking of an aircraft is committed by one who onboard attempts either by force or threat with the intention to control the aircraft for unlawful and illegal purposes. If the charge is proved then the person shall be liable life imprisonment and fine.

However, the 1999 Indian Airlines Flight 814 hijacking brought the government down to its knees and forced the government to revisit and formulate stringent ant-hijack policy. Therefore, in 2005 the Indian government enacted the Anti- Hijack policy and also got the acceptance from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The constant threat of aircraft hijacking by rebellious organizations obligated the legislators to evaluate the existing legislation and vigilance towards such requirements. The Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016 was approved by the Parliament to give effect to various international conventions like The Hague Convention of 1971 and the Beijing Protocol of 2010. Moreover, it introduces some wide-sweeping changes to the existing legislation which were obsolete.

Objectives and Purpose of the Act

  • The Act repeals The Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, and gives “effect to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, 1970 and its Protocol Supplementary, signed on September 10, 2010.”
  • The main aim of the act is to widen the ambit of the word ‘hijacking’ by adding in its definition even the creation of a threat to commit as the offence of hijacking.
  • Moreover, it was sought to be expedient “that the unlawful acts of seizure or exercise of control of aircraft” are vulnerable to the security of persons and property. Thus, it is an issue of great distress that need to be addressed efficiently by enacting appropriate measures for giving effect to the Convention and the Protocol and for matters associated therewith.
  • Further, the Act amended the definition to include within its ambit those who organize or abet another person to commit the offence and also holds such individuals guilty of abetment of hijacking.
  • The objectives of the Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016 are in consonance with the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft. Further, the Act had tried to incorporate the Beijing Protocol of September 2010 which is supplementary to the Convention. The Act essentially deals with all kinds of unlawful acts including the offence of threat against civil aviation as well.
  • Furthermore, the aim of the Act is to highlight the concern of the government to take expedient actions to be taken in cases of illegal acts of controlling or seizure of the aircraft. As this could be vulnerable to the security of persons and property.

Salient Features

To give effect to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft or The Hague Convention, 1970 for allied matters the Indian Parliament enacted the Anti- Hijacking Act, 2016. Further, this Act provides weight to the Supplementary Protocol to the Convention that is related to the unlawful acts against the aviation and was signed by India on 10th September 2010. Various terms are defined in this Act such as agency, aircraft, military aircraft, security personal, hostage, etc. So, the act of hijacking has been defined as “Whoever unlawfully and intentionally seizes or exercises control of an aircraft in service  by force or threat thereof, or by coercion, or by any other form of intimidation, or by any technological means, commits the offence of hijacking.”

Further, the attempt, credible threat or abetment to do hijacking isalso added within the meaning of hijacking For the meaning of this Act, an aircraft shall be deemed to be “in service” “from the beginning of the pre-flight preparation of the aircraft by ground personnel or by the crew for a specific flight until twenty-four hours after any landing and in the case of a forced landing, the flight shall be deemed to continue until the competent authorities take over the responsibility for the aircraft and for persons and property on board.” Further, the Act provides the punishment of either with death or imprisonment for life and confiscation of movable and immovable property of the accused if the person has committed the offence of hijacking.

Moreover, the Act prescribes the punishment for the acts of violence connected with the offence of aircraft hijacking. Furthermore, previous sanction from the Central Government is necessary before filing a case under this Act.

The intention of the act is to enlarge the scope of the word ‘hijacking’ by adding in its description even the creation of a threat to commit an offence of hijacking. Hence, now also it is a crime to illegally and deliberately cause any being to receive intimidation under conditions that point out that the danger is believable. In addition, the modified definition contains within its ambit those who arrange or direct others to do the crime and also grasps such person liable for the abetment of hijacking.

One more noteworthy feature of the new law is the concept of universal jurisdiction, which contains that “if the hijacker is Indian, or if the hijacked aircraft is registered in India or if any foreign registered aircraft lands in India with the alleged offender still on board or when the aircraft is hijacked anywhere in the world and an Indian citizen is on board.”

Important Provisions

Some of the important provisions of the Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016 are discussed below:

  • Section 3(1) of the Act defines the crime of hijacking and associated offences that who so ever illegally and deliberately “seizes or exercises control of an aircraft in service of force or threat or by coercion or by any other form of intimidation including any other technological means, commits the offence of hijacking.”
  • Section 4 stipulates the punishment for hijacking–“(a) with death where such offence results in the death of a hostage or of a security personnel or of any person not involved in the offence, as a direct consequence of the office of hijacking; or (b) With imprisonment for life which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life and with fine, and the movable and immovable property of such person shall also be liable to be confiscated.”
  • The Jurisdiction of Court is given in Section 7(1). The courts has the jurisdiction on including the place where the offence is committed: “(i) In India; (ii) against an aircraft registered in India; (iii) on board an aircraft which lands in India with the accused still on board; (iv) by or against an Indian citizen; (v) by a person who is present in India and is not extradited by the central government, etc.”
  • Further, the provisions as to bail are provided under Section 12. It states that offences would be non-bailable unless “the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity to oppose the application for such release; and 10 Supra note where Public Prosecutor opposes the application, the Designated Court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty of such offence and that he is not likely to commit any offence while on bail.”
  • Section 14 provides powers to the Central Government to include some aircraft to “be treated as registered in such Convention country as may be specified in the notification.”13 Further, Section 15 states for the requirement of previous sanction of central government for filing any case under this Act.
  • Powers of investigating officers to seize or attach property have been described under Section 18. Moreover, the Confiscation and forfeiture of property has been highlighted under Section 19 of the Act.
  • Section 21 repeals the Anti-Hijacking act 1982. It states that without affecting any obligations, privileges, or rights, any step undertaken in fulfillment of the Act or “any legal proceedings and remedy, penalty, forfeiture and any such investigation, penalty, forfeiture or remedy may be imposed as if the said Act had not been repealed.”

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