The Piracy Bill, 2012

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The Piracy Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on April 24, 2012.  According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons, there has been a significant increase in attacks by pirates, particularly in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.  This has affected security of maritime traffic and personnel plying between Asia, Europe and Africa.  Moreover, enhanced naval presence in the Gulf of Aden is now causing pirates to shift operations close to India’s Exclusive Economic Zone.   As a result, a number of Somali pirates are presently in the custody of Indian police authorities. However, since piracy as a crime is not included in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), this has led to problems in prosecution. The Piracy Bill intends to fill this gap and provide clarity in the law. The Bill, if passed by Parliament, would extend to the entire Exclusive Economic Zone of India (EEZ).  Under international law, EEZ is a seazone over which a country has special rights for exploration and use of marine resources.  It stretches outward from the coast, up to 200 nautical miles into the sea. The Bill defines 'piracy' as any illegal act of violence or detention for private ends by the crew or passengers of a private ship or aircraft on high seas or at a place outside the jurisdiction of any State.  This definition is akin to the definition of piracy laid down under the 'United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea'. The Bill seeks to punish piracy with imprisonment for life.  In cases where piracy leads to death, it may be punished with death.  It also provides that if arms, ammunition are recovered from the possession of the accused, or if there is evidence of threat of violence, the burden of proof for proving innocence would shift to the accused.

The Bill empowers the government to set up designated courts for speedy trial of offences and authorizes the court to prosecute the accused regardless of his/ her nationality.  It also provides for extradition. You can access the Bill text here.

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