The Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill – Status: Pending
- The bill enables Indian authorities to take action against piracy in the high seas. The bill brings into law the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It applies to the sea beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), i.e., beyond 200 nautical miles from India’s coastline.
- India’s power extends till its territorial waters (up to 12 nautical miles from the coastline), which implies that all nation’s domestic laws apply in this zone. Prosecuting pirates who are apprehended beyond these territorial waters is a challenge because India does not have a domestic law on maritime piracy. The bill seeks to remedy this.
- The bill 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.
- Piracy also includes inciting and intentionally facilitating such acts of violence and voluntarily participating in a pirate ship or aircraft operation.
- Committing an act of piracy will be punishable with: (i) life imprisonment; or (ii) death if the act of piracy causes or seeks to cause death.
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 offenses. The Supreme Court has held that the mandatory death penalty for any offense is unconstitutional as it violates Articles 14 and 21. However, Parliament has passed laws providing for the mandatory death penalty for some crimes.
Why should this law become a reality?
Thousands of years ago, our great ancestors from the Chola Empire understood the dynamics of piracy and why they should be stopped. Chola Empire was the pioneer in creating and maintaining the world’s greatest navy, and their fight against piracy was the reason they were able to secure islands across oceans. Chola captured smaller islands to create a network of lighthouses and outposts with parked armies to secure shipping routes. Their stand against piracy and strict action against the pirates made them a leader and guardian among the Chinese and the Persians as well. They were leading the Asian subcontinent with ease because the waters were safer under their control.
In one particular instance, the Cholas went as far as to capture and overpower Kamboja (modern-day Cambodia) and gave it to the Sri Vijaya kings (as per their request) to ensure cooperation in curbing piracy.
India can rule the seas again and become a leader of the ocean in Asia like the great Cholas if it takes definitive action against maritime piracy. Until today, prosecuting pirates who are captured beyond these territorial waters is a challenge because India does not have a domestic law on maritime piracy. However, this can change if the bill is passed. The world will feel secure if India secures the oceans again, and this bill can ensure that.