Saturday, June 3, 2023

‘Key to safeguarding India’s security’: Anti-Piracy Bill 2022 passed in Rajya Sabha

new DelhiParliament on Wednesday passed a bill to prevent piracy and provide for stringent punishment for those who commit such offences. The Rajya Sabha passed the Anti-Piracy Bill, 2022 by voice vote on Wednesday. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday. Introducing the bill for consideration and passing in Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said it has provisions for prevention of maritime piracy, will strengthen India’s maritime security and give it an effective legal instrument to deal with the menace .

The bill will also enable the country to fulfill its international obligations and improve India’s position in global forums. “Ensuring maritime security is critical to safeguarding India’s security and economic well-being,” he said.

The minister said that between 2008 and 2011 there have been 27 maritime incidents in which 288 Indian citizens were involved. He said that between 2014 and 2022 there were 19 cases of piracy involving 155 Indian crew members and the statistics show why the country so desperately needs this bill.

The bill was initially introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 9, 2019, and was referred to the Standing Committee on External Affairs for examination. Jaishankar said the ministry has conducted several rounds of extensive inter-ministerial consultations with line departments to incorporate the recommendations of the standing committee.

Of the 18 recommendations of the Standing Committee, 14 have been suitably incorporated in the Bill, he said, adding that only three recommendations were duly noted.

“The Bill addresses the issue of capital punishment as an exceptional case and the quantum of punishment envisaged is commensurate with the seriousness of the offences,” the minister said.

In the bill, the government has added a provision for death penalty and life imprisonment for those convicted of piracy. In the absence of a specific law or legal provision in the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure on piracy, he said, the Bill would provide an effective legal instrument to combat piracy.

Also, he said, it would enable India to discharge its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “The bill will meet all the requirements of UNCLOS, to which India is a signatory, for cooperation and suppression of high seas piracy,” Jaishankar said.

The External Affairs Minister stressed that with more than 90 per cent of India’s trade being sea-routed and more than 80 per cent of its hydrocarbon requirements from the sea, “the security of our sea lanes of communication is critical”.

He said that India is one of the largest providers of seafarers in the world. He also highlighted that India has taken a lead on maritime security issues in multilateral fora. “The passage of this bill will enhance our global credibility and enhance our prestige in the community of nations,” the minister said.

“It will strengthen our maritime security, including the security of our maritime trade routes and the well-being of Indian seafarers in international waters,” Jaishankar said. Members cutting across party lines supported the bill, though some of them said that some provisions could be improved.

Supporting the bill, Congress member Vivek Tankha said that India would be happy to have this law, but asked the government to look into some of the harsher provisions, including bail provisions for those arrested. BJP’s Prakash Javadekar said it is a good move that the government has accepted most of the recommendations of the Standing Committee.

Several other members including Jawahar Sarkar (TMC), NR Elango (DMK), Sasmit Patra (BJD), Ami Yagnik (Congress) and Ayodhya Rami Reddy Alla (YSRCP) supported the bill. Some of them also sought some clarifications from the minister.

The government wondered whether the law would apply to private vessels. CPI(M)’s Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya called for the removal of the provision of death penalty in the bill.

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“We will have jurisdiction over foreign ships (which indulge in piracy),” Jaishankar told the House. Regarding the suggestions of the members regarding having a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for better enforcement, he said that the suggestion is well taken as it will help in its enforcement.

He appreciated members’ views that authorized persons – the armed forces dealing with piracy – needed to be given immunity. Jaishankar said the designated courts would be set up in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. He said that it is clear from the law that the police officer will be the key person in the investigation.

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“We believe that in such cases they (police) have the capability to do so. We have not specified the rank of the (investigating) officer as we have gone by the CrPC. Even a station house officer In such circumstances, a case can be registered.” ” He said.

Some members raised the issue of protecting the interests of Indian fishermen. On this, the minister said that the Government of India is committed to protect the interests of Indian fishermen. He said that 19 members have spoken on the bill and each one of them has expressed support for it, which underlines how much this bill is in our national interest.

(This report has been published as part of an auto-generated syndicated wire feed. Except for the headline, no edits have been made to the copy by ABP Live.)

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