A new bill that ramps up punishment for hijacking is now ready and is expected too be presented to Union Cabinet for approval soon, said civil aviation minister Ashok Raju.
The Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill proposes the death penalty for hijackers who cause loss of life and allows security forces to shoot down an aircraft which has strayed well away from its path and which they fear may be used as a missile, like the planes which flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in the US on September 11, 2001.
Also, the bill provides that the word “hijack” will no longer apply only to a plane that is in flight. Any attack on an aircraft three hours before take-off to 24 hours after it has landed will be considered under laws that deal with hijack. This is to include the possibility of a silent attack with biological weapons, the impact of which could be felt even a day later.
The proposed law will allow security forces to immobilise an aircraft or prevent its take-off and also allow the Indian Air Force to scramble its fighters to intercept a hijacked aircraft and force it to land.
It will include punishment for prank calls about hijacks.
The Anti-Hijacking bill amends a 1982 Act. It was cleared by the Manmohan Singh cabinet in March 2010 and was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in August that year and was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture. The parliamentary panel submitted its report in October the same year, and it has been on the pending list since then.
Government officials said the bill now incorporates the latest global anti-hijack laws and brings Indian law in line with the Beijing Protocol of the UN body International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).