New Delhi: A Bill seeking stringent punishment including death penalty for hijackers was approved by the Union Cabinet tonight.

The government will now withdraw the Anti-Hijacking Amendment Bill, 2010 and introduce a new legislation.

The Union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi granted its approval for introduction of the comprehensive Anti-Hijacking Bill 2014, an official release said in New Delhi.
The current law, the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, was last amended in 1994 The Cabinet has also given approval to ratify Beijing Protocol, 2010 of the UN body International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to which India is a signatory, the release said.

The Anti-Hijacking Amendment Bill, 2010 was brought after incidents like the hijack of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999 and the September 11, 2001 terror strikes in the United States, reflecting major threats like civilian aircraft being hijacked and used as missiles to cause mass destruction.

The Anti-Hijacking Amendment Bill, 2010 pending in the Rajya Sabha since August, 2010 after the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture gave its recommendations, was cleared by the cabinet headed by then prime minister Manmohan Singh in March 2010.

In view of growing threats, the draft bill proposes to amend the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, and enhance its scope by including death penalty for the offence of hijacking which at present provides for imprisonment for life and fine.

The proposed law would also give teeth to concerned agencies or 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.

A hostile plane could also be shot down if there is evidence that it could be used as a missile to hit a vital installation.

The legislation would provide that anyone, alone or in concert with others, who commit acts like seizure or control
of an aircraft by force or any form of intimidation would be deemed to have committed the offence of hijacking.

It proposes to give powers to the agencies and forces for stern action against those making phone calls and doling out
hoax threats, they said.

In its report, the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture had endorsed the provision to award capital punishment to abettors and conspirators committing any act defined as hijacking.

However, it had also opined that if death penalty was ensured for all hijacking offences, then the opportunity for negotiation or settlement to save the lives of passengers would be closed.

It had also asked whether death penalty would serve as deterrence to hijackers on suicide missions.

A group of ministers (GoM) headed by then Home Minister P Chidambaram had approved the bill to include death sentence and life imprisonment for hijacking before the Union Cabinet gave its nod to the measure then.