Friday, June 24, 2011

Centre plans law to sink pirates

March 10: The government is fast-tracking efforts to enact legislation to tackle sea piracy that will empower Indian forces facing danger outside the country’s territory.
Government sources said the committee of secretaries (CoS) headed by the Cabinet secretary, Mr K.M. Chandrasekhar, met recently to discuss the issue. A proposal to bring legislation to deal with sea pirates was believed to have been one of the steps discussed at a meeting attended by the law and defence secretaries. It has been proposed that the legislation allow Indian forces, particularly the Indian Navy, to fight the pirates on the high seas and, if the pirates are captured, bring them to India for trial.
While Indian forces on rescue missions currently limit themselves to freeing the sailors held hostage, the proposed legislation would allow them to use weapons and sink pirate ships.
India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982. There is also a national law governing the coastal regions within the sovereign territory of India known as the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and Other Maritime Zones Act, 1976.
A government official said there are no specific provisions in the law at present to deal with sea piracy and the government is open to the idea of bringing separate legislation in the face of hijackings of merchant vessels. “A decision will be taken after inter-ministerial consultations on whether a new law should be enacted or relevant changes should be made in the existing laws to deal with the issue,” the official said. The legislation would be in line with the UN Convention, he said.
Meanwhile, with the pressure mounting for release of Indian sailors held hostages by Somalian pirates, the government on Thursday said it has to exercise restraint because any emotive response could put the captives’ lives at risk.