The External Affairs Standing Committee of Parliament, headed by veteran BJP MP PP Chaudhary has recommended that the maximum punishment for a pirate should be death penalty. In its report on the Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill, the panel said though the Bill is drafted in accordance with UN provisions, if a pirate causes death, his or her maximum punishment should also be death.

The panel observed that the Bill has been drafted in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) adopted by India in 1982 and ratified in 1995. “The committee further observed that countries such as the US, Australia, Italy and Sri Lanka do not provide for death penalty in spite of passing anti-maritime law similar to India. Under this, if a person while committing an act of Piracy causes or attempts to cause death, he will be punished by death,” it noted.

The Committee said that the Supreme Court of India has ruled that awarding a mandatory death penalty for an offence violates the Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution and hence it is arbitrary and unfair in nature. “Even the Section 303 of IPC and Section 27(3) of the Arms Act 1959 which provided mandatory death penalty for offenders has been struck down by the Supreme Court. The Committee, however, feel that committing an act of piracy in itself is a crime and to the top it if the act of accused causes a death it will be a double crime in nature and should be viewed very seriously as a crime nothing short of one against humanity,” it said.

It recommended that the clause three of the Bill should be reframed to make a provision of punishment for death when death of any person is caused while committing or making an attempt of piracy. “It may be reworded as under: Whoever commits any act of piracy, shall be punished – (i) with imprisonment for life or (ii) with death if such person in committing the act of piracy, or an attempt thereof, causes death of a person and in addition shall also be subject to restitution or forfeiture of property involved in the commission of such offence,” the report said.