With the Indian Navy nabbing over 120 Somali pirates in the last six months, India has prepared a draft anti-piracy law that is likely to be tabled in the monsoon session of parliament beginning August 1, an official said.
The draft legislation, prepared in consultation with all the maritime stakeholders, including the navy and the coast guard, is expected the plug the gaps in the Indian legal system and criminal laws that were found to be inadequate to deal with the sea brigands.
“The draft law is ready and it has gone to the law ministry for final vetting before it goes to parliament. It is likely to be taken up for passing in the monsoon session of parliament,” a defence ministry official told a media agency here Tuesday.
The draft law clearly defines what actions constitute piracy and who would be called a pirate, apart from listing out the legal framework for apprehending them, be it in Indian or international waters, and for prosecuting them in Indian courts, the official said.
Currently, the Indian Penal Code and the British-era Admiralty Act deal with piracy-related offences. These, however, have not been found to be adequate for dealing with pirates apprehended in international waters. This apart, though India has ratified the UN Convention on Laws of the Seas, it needs to enact a law to bring it into force. The proposed legislation deals with these inadequacies.
“The draft legislation also prescribes punishment for different acts that constitute piracy under the law. But details of the punishment is not yet final, as it is now under scrutiny for inconsistencies or otherwise with the law ministry,” the official said.
The draft legislation has been prepared after Indian Navy began apprehending the pirates in the Arabian Sea and off-loaded them in Mumbai to remain under police custody to face prosecution.
On nearly a dozen occasions since October 2008 when India joined the anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, its navy has had to empty the fuel on pirate’s speed boats and let them to drift in the high seas, as nabbing them would raise questions as to where they would be prosecuted and which foreign port would take them into custody.
All this, however, changed last November when India began capturing the pirates after they shifted operations closer to the Lakshwadeep Islands in the Arabian Sea.