Thursday, 10 May 2012

Piracy Bill 2012 introduced in Indian Lower House

Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahmed tabled the Piracy Bill 2012 in the Lower House of the Indian Parliament- the Lok Sabha a week ago. The Bill aims to plug the large loopholes in the criminal justice system in the country that has made it very difficult to prosecute captured pirates so far. It recognises the crime of piracy and details standards for prosecution of pirates, who now can face life terms- and even death in some cases- for their crimes. India does not have any laws governing piracy at the moment, since that has not been included as a crime in the antiquated Indian Penal Code, 1860 or the later Criminal Procedure Code. 

Ahmed said that the introduced Piracy Bill would provide “certainty and clarity in the law as well as a sound basis for effective prosecution” of pirates apprehended, regardless of their nationality. It would also make “special provisions for suppression of piracy” and provide for “punishment for the offence of piracy,” he added, besides promoting Indian maritime security. 

The Indian Bill, if passed, will bring the definition of ‘piracy’ in the country in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and will apply throughout the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone. Analysts say that this would bring much needed clarity in law and help in effective prosecution of pirates suspects, who can then be prosecuted for an act of piracy, an attempt to commit piracy or even as an accomplice to piracy; the Bill also has provisions for extradition of pirate suspects. 

Any gazetted officer of the Central or a State government will be able to instigate arrest, investigation and prosecution of apprehended suspects under the Code of Criminal Procedure under the Piracy Bill, and designated fast track courts will be set up for speedy trials for the crime if falling under their jurisdiction.
An act of piracy will then be punished with imprisonment for life. When the accused has caused death in committing the act of piracy- or even attempted it- he may be punished with death. In addition, the accused, if convicted, may be subjected to restitution and forfeiture of "property involved in the commission of the offence". A convicted accomplice to piracy will be fined and can spend up to fourteen years in jail.

 “Given the increasing incidence of piracy, including within India's Exclusive Economic Zone and the increasing number of pirates apprehended by the Indian Naval forces, a need was felt for a domestic legislation on piracy which could provide the necessary legal framework within the country for prosecution of persons for piracy-related crimes,” says the "objects and reasons" statement of the Bill.

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