- Parliament recently passed the Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill 2022, with the Rajya Sabha passing it by voice vote.
- Although the Bill was supported by members cutting across party lines, some concerns over certain provisions in the Bill were raised.
What is Maritime Piracy?
- Essentially piracy is any illegal act, broadly defined as robbery on the high seas (i.e. outside of the 12nm limit of Territorial Waters).
- However, robbery occurring within the 12nm limit is treated as a crime of robbery under the laws of the coastal state.
The aim of piracy is to extract the maximum monetary value possible by:
- Hit and Run – Theft of ships’ cash and/or stores
- Kidnap for ransom– removal of persons to extort release money
- Hijack for Ransom– detention of the target to extort release money
- Stealing ship and cargo – targeting of vessels (often during Ship-Ship operations) to remove cargo.
What factors favour pirate operations?
- Legal and jurisdictional opportunities
- Favourable geography
- Conflict and disorder
- Under-funded law enforcement/inadequate security
- Permissive political environments
- Cultural acceptability/maritime tradition ex. in Somalia
Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill 2022: Key Features
Defining Piracy: The Bill defines piracy as any illegal act of violence or detention or damage or destruction committed by any person, or by the crew or any passenger of a private ship. Such illegal acts come under the definition of piracy if they are committed against another ship or any person or property on board a ship, on the high seas.
Compliance with UNCLOS: The Bill will bring the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) into domestic law and empower Indian authorities to take action against piracy on the high seas. The Bill covers the sea beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is 200 nautical miles off the coast of India.
Penal provisions: The Bill provides for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or fine or both, for anybody who commits any act of piracy. This punishment can increase to a life imprisonment or death penalty if any person is found to have caused somebody’s death or attempts to cause somebody’s death while committing the act of piracy.
Designated courts: The Bill also provides for designation of a specific sessions court in the States for speedy trial of offences under the law. Notably, this court would have the jurisdiction to handle cases against any person apprehended by or in the custody of the authorised personnel or police– irrespective of their nationality or citizenship of the person.
Broader jurisdiction: These courts would be able to handle trials against foreigners caught under this law as well, along with Indian citizens, or resident foreign nationals in India or stateless people.
Need for such law
- Global compliance: India is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1982, and ratified the convention on 29 June 1995.
- Filling the legislative gap: Up until now, it did not have any domestic law on maritime piracy.
- Narrow scope of IPC: The Indian Penal Code provisions relating to armed robbery are usually used to prosecute pirates. However, this has proven to be inadequate in the past.
- Rising cases of Piracy: The Gulf of Aden has seen a spurt in attacks by pirates operating from Somalia since 2008.
- Vicinity to major shipping routes: This route is used by 2,000 ships each month for trade between Asia and Europe and the East coast of Africa.
- Increasing India’s naval capabilities: India on its part is actively engaged in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Eastern Arabian Sea.
Issues with the Bill
- Capital Punishment: Under the Bill, if a person, while committing an act of piracy causes or seeks to cause death, he will be punished with death. This implies a mandatory death penalty for such offences.
- Ambiguity over imprisonment: The Bill provides for imprisonment of up to 14 years if a person participates in an act of piracy. However, committing an act of piracy is punishable with life imprisonment.
- 12Nm boundary: The Bill applies to all parts of the sea adjacent to and beyond the limits of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of India, i.e., beyond 200 nautical miles from the coastline.
- Maritime security: By bringing a strong legislation, India has taken a lead on the issue of maritime security at a multilateral forum.
- Protection of maritime trade: More than 90 percent of trade taking place by sea routes. So Anti-Piracy Bill is the need of the hour as the Bill will give the right to take action on high seas.
- Secured Freedom of navigation (FON): The Bill will strengthen India’s credentials as a partner with other countries to make the world more piracy free.
Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes
(Click) FREE 1-to-1 on-call Mentorship by IAS-IPS officers | Discuss doubts, strategy, sources, and more