Raiders of the High Seas

Indian penal code needs to be updated to include piracy laws.

Raiders of the High Seas

Though several Indians are still being held hostage by pirates, India is yet to have a law to deal with piracy in the high seas, says Kavitha Shanmugam

Aman Kumar Sharma, 23, feels he is lucky to be alive. He could easily have been shot dead by Somali pirates, who had hijacked their Malaysian cargo vessel MV Albedo off the coast of Somali in November 2010. That was the fate of his fellow Indian crew member Raju Prasad who was shot thrice in the chest by the pirates. After nearly four years in captivity and with the intervention of the United Nations, Sharma and 10 other crew members of MV Albedo were finally rescued last month.

Piracy has become a chilling fact of life, and in recent years marauding Somali pirates have held ships to ransom in the high seas, killing and pillaging at will. While the global community has struggled to apprehend these pirates, unfortunately, in India, even if we catch them, there are no laws under which they can be effectively tried. And though a Piracy Bill has been in the works since 2012, little progress has been made on that front. In fact, with the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha, the Piracy Bill has now lapsed.

At present piracy as a crime is not included in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Pirates can at best be booked for armed robbery under the IPC or under the archaic Admiralty Offences Act of 1849.

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