THE ANTI-HIJACKING ACT, 2016 AND THE RECENT CONTROVERSIES


Introduction
Union home ministry has ordered an NIA probe into a hoax call by a Chennai resident to Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) in his bid to stop his wife from leaving the country. [1] The person, later distinguished as Nasrudeen, had called up DIAL on August 9, to tell that a woman named Zabina has arrived at Delhi International Airport to leave for Dubai or Saudi Arab and she can cause blast in the flight. The continuing danger of aircraft hijacking by militant associations constrained our officials to survey our current law and readiness towards such exigencies. 

The Kandhar Hijack: The Trigger
IC 814, was an Indian Airlines Airbus A300 on the way from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India on Friday, 24 December 1999, when it was hijacked and taken to a few locations before arriving in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Harkat-ul-Mujahideen was blamed for the hijacking with the help and support from ISI. 
The aircraft was commandeered by terrorists soon after it entered Indian airspace. The hijackers commanded the pilot to take the aircraft to various locations. after landing in Amritsar, Lahore, and Dubai, the hijackers, at last, forced the aircraft to arrive in Kandahar, Afghanistan, which at the time was controlled by the Taliban. The hijackers had released several passengers in Dubai with many of them being wounded and one stabbed to death.
The rationale in the hijacking seems to have been to ensure the release of Islamist figures held in jails across India. The then Vajpayee government was forced to secure the release of the hostages by agreeing to swap them for three incarcerated terrorists - Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. [2] Anti Hijacking Act was made more stringent in the light of experiences from the hijack in 1999.

Reason for bringing the Act
The seizing of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 back in 1999 and the 9/11 assaults in the U.S., in which aircraft were utilized as rockets, were wake-up calls for India to fix 1982 made anti-hijacking law. The need was likewise felt to make hijacking culpable with capital punishment. The administration felt that the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1982 had inadequate punishments and was not thorough enough to manage new problems in the field.
The Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016 revoked the 1982 Act. Its goals are in line with the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft. The Act additionally fused the September 2010 Beijing Protocol Supplementary to the Convention which explicitly managed "unlawful acts against civil aviation by new types of threats". The Act featured the government's anxiety for convenient measures to be taken during threatening demonstrations of hijacks or exercise of control of aircraft which endanger the security of people and property. The Hague Convention (Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft) sets out the principle of aut dedere aut judicare a state that is a party to the Convention must prosecute an aircraft hijacker if no other state requests his or her extradition for prosecution. [3]

Salient Features of the Act
The point of the Act is to expand the extent of the term 'hijacking' by including in its definition even the creation of a threat to commit a hijack. Moreover, the revised definition incorporates inside its scope the individuals who organize the offense and furthermore holds such people blameworthy of abetment of hijacking. 
Another prominent component of the new enactment is universal jurisdiction, which incorporates inter-alia, if the hijacker is Indian, or if the seized aircraft is enlisted in India or if any foreign-enrolled aircraft arrives in India with the supposed offender still on board or when the aircraft is hijacked at any place on the planet and an Indian resident is present on the aircraft. 
The Act goes a stage forward by characterizing the term 'in service'. An aircraft is considered in service from the starting of the pre-flight arrangement by the ground crew or by the personnel for a particular flight until 24 hours subsequent to landing. 
From the punishment viewpoint, the Act endorses capital punishment where the offense brings about the death of a hostage or security worker, and life imprisonment in every single other case. It likewise accommodates the death penalty against plotters and abductors of any of the demonstrations of hijacking, with the goal that every one of those included, legitimately or in a roundabout way, is brought to book. 

The First Case under the new Act
A special NIA court condemned an individual, who had taken steps to hijack a Delhi-bound Jet Airways flight in 2017, to life imprisonment. 
In 2017, an air hostess found a threat note in the washroom of the business class of the plane which stated that "there are hijackers on board and explosives on the plane". [4] This risk was brought to the notice of the Captain of the flight who looked for the authorization of Air Traffic Controller in Ahmedabad for an emergency landing. 
Post investigation by the Crime Branch, NIA re-enlisted the case under sections 3(1), 3(2)(a) and 4(b) of Anti Hijacking Act, 2016 and assumed control over the investigation soon thereafter. 
Salla admitted to the crime done and told the investigators that he had done it with the intention to drive Jet Airways to close its Delhi operations and his girlfriend, who worked in the carrier's Delhi office, would return to Mumbai. A charge sheet was filed against the accused in the NIA Special Court in January 2018.

The Current Case
The case against Nasrudeen was first investigated by the Gurugram police. According to the primary investigation, Zabina and Nasrudeen got married in 2017 at Chennai. On August 8, 2019, while Nasrudeen was headed back to Chennai from Sitamarhi in Bihar, Zabina told him, on the telephone that she was leaving for a foreign nation for a better life. The accused made all endeavors to stop her yet she didn't agree. At last, Nasrudeen made the hoax call to Delhi International Airport. 
The hoax call created an immense frenzy at Delhi International Airport creating disarray among different security organizations which brought about temporary suspension of activities of International flights.

Conclusion
The term 'aircraft' is distinguished as any airplane, regardless of whether or not it is enlisted in India. But it bars an aircraft that is utilized in customs or police administration, which ought to have been incorporated. The Act additionally doesn't ensure the safety of the ground staff and security personnel. While an aircraft is on the ground or is being prepared for departure, a prospective hijacker may commit an act of violence against the ground personnel. [5]
Regardless, the new legislation is a bold move as India fixes its stand on managing hijacking occurrences. Hijacking has become a vast area of worldwide aviation law causing extraordinary concern globally. India has demonstrated its worry by updating its legislation and by setting up effective methods for battling hijacking.

References
[1] “NIA probe into a hoax call by a Chennai resident”, The Economic Times, 15 November 2019 available here   
[2] Bharti Jain, “Life term or death only possible punishment”, The Times of India, 12 June 2019 available here
[3] Deeptiman Tiwary, “Explained: Hijacking Act; why a hoax led to a life term”, The Indian Express, 13 June 2019 available here
[4] “NIA Court sentences man to life term under Anti-Hijacking Act”, Business Standard, 11 June 2019 available here
[5] Satvik Verma, Vikrant Pachnanda, “The Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016: An Explainer”, The Wire, 1 June 2016 available here

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