Rajya Sabha passes Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill

Source: The post is based on the article “Rajya Sabha passes Maritime Anti-Piracy Billpublished in Indian Express on 23rd December 2022

What is the News?

Rajya Sabha has passed the Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill which the government said would provide an effective legal instrument to combat Maritime Piracy. The bill is in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 

Note: Lok Sabha has already passed this Bill.

What are the key provisions of the Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill?

Definition of Piracy: It defines piracy as any illegal act of violence, detention or destruction against a ship, aircraft, person or property, for private purposes, by the crew or passengers of a private ship or aircraft.  

– The definition also includes inciting and intentionally facilitating such acts of violence, and voluntarily participating in the operation of a pirate ship or aircraft.

Applicability: The bill will apply not only in territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but also on the high seas — beyond the EEZ which is 200 nautical miles from the country’s coastline.

Punishment: For committing acts of piracy, the convicts shall be punished with imprisonment for life or death in case the act of piracy itself causes the death or attempts to cause the death of another person.

Participating in or assisting acts of piracy will be punishable with up to 14 years of imprisonment and a fine.

Extraditable offences: Piracy offences have been made extraditable under the provisions of this bill. If India has an extradition treaty with countries, accused offenders can be transferred more easily.

Designated Court: The central government, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court, may notify the Sessions Courts to be the Designated Courts for speedy trial of offences of piracy under the Bill.

What is the significance of the Bill?

Firstly, 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. 

Secondly, it would enable us to discharge our obligations under the UNCLOS which we had signed in 1982 and ratified in 1995.

What are the issues with the bill?

It is unclear how the overlap of the 14-year term and the life term will be determined since committing an act of piracy will necessarily include participation as well.

Under the bill, a person, while committing an act of piracy causes or seeks to cause death, s/he will be punished with death.

– However, the Supreme Court of India has advocated for the use of the death penalty in the “rarest of rare” cases. 

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