Parliamentary panel for death penalty to hijackers

Parliamentary panel for death penalty to hijackers New Delhi: Supporting death penalty for hijackers, a parliamentary committee has said capital punishment must be awarded to conspirators and abettors whose actions result in death of hostages or security personnel.

At the same time, it raised questions as to whether opportunities for any negotiation or settlement to save lives would be foreclosed if the hijackers knew they would in any case get capital punishment for the offence.

The report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, headed by CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, on the Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill 2010, was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.

It felt that the amendment to include death penalty in the 1982 Anti-Hijacking Act was "the need of the hour and unavoidable in the heightened threat of such a daring crime."

The proposed law comes more than a decade after the 1999 hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 to Kandahar that led to the killing of one passenger and release of four dreaded terrorists.

While endorsing the proposed measure to provide capital punishment to hijackers as well as to "conspirators and abettors", the committee pointed out that it was not clear whether death penalty would be applicable to hijackers who kill hostages or securitymen or to all hijackers who have or have not caused any fatality.

It pointed out that if death penalty was a "foregone conclusion" for hijacking, "the opportunities for any negotiation or settlement to save lives of passengers may be foreclosed."

"What about safety of passengers and crew when the hijackers are sure that they will get death penalty for their offence? Whether the death penalty would really be a deterrence to those hijackers who do it as suicide mission," it asked.

Expressing reservations over the definition of hijack or seizure of an aircraft 'in flight', the Committee said it did not include cases of "forced entry into aircraft and its take-over when the aircraft is on the taxiway at the airport with or without passengers or when pre-flight checking of the aircraft is in progress."

It recommended that the definition of hijacking "needs to be widened to include such situations also."

Observing that grant of compensation was time-consuming as it involved a lot of litigation and procedures, it said a stand-alone law on hijacking should include "all aspects related or incidental to the act of hijacking in this legislation itself."

It asked the government to consider necessary provisions in the bill for granting of compensation to the victims.

Noting there were increased instances of hijacking of trains, buses and cars, the panel asked the government to consider having a law to deal with all such cases and provide punishment to offenders.