A more stringent anti-hijacking law
- The government announced its intention to introduce tougher Anti-Hijacking laws by repealing the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982.
- Capital punishment, which earlier could be awarded in case of the death of security personnel or hostages, would be extended to include deaths of ground staff as well.
- The definition of hijacking would expand from "in-flight" to "in-service", to include incidents occurring during flight preparation, prior to takeoff.
Anti-hijacking legislation in India
India established the Anti-Hijacking Act in 1982 to tackle hijacking situations. However, since that time, there has arisen a need for consolidating the law to include a national hostage policy to tackle hostage crises emanating from such incidents.
Airport security: A serious concern
- The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture found that 8 airports in the country are not under Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) protection, the only specialized aviation security agency in India.
- Criticizing the lack of attention towards aviation security, it categorized 26 of the 98 operational airports as 'hyper-sensitive'.
- It has also highlighted lack of security equipment like X-rays, CCTVs, etc.
Hotlines at airports to tackle hijack situations
- 13 airports in the country may soon have hotlines linked to crisis management rooms in the Civil Aviation Ministry and Cabinet Secretariat to deal with hijacking situations.
- The move comes in the wake of the Pathankot attack which triggered the government to review the security apparatus of critical infrastructure in India.
- The Airport Authority of India (AAI) will install the hotlines at major airports.
Why is the hotline needed?
- India has faced 6 aircraft hijackings since gaining Independence in 1947. The communication gap during the 1999 Indian Airlines IC-814 hijacking delayed the response of security agencies.
- The permanent hotlines aim to avoid this.
- Now, in case of any eventuality, the aircrafts will be diverted to the nearest airport with a hotline and communication would not only be immediate, but also much more streamlined.
Airports with hotlines
The two dedicated hotlines will be setup at 13 airports - Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Trivandrum, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Lucknow and Guwahati - spreading across India's territory.
More security measures required: Experts
- Security experts have used this opportunity to suggest various measures for further strengthening the security of airports.
- Former AAI board member Robey Lal recommended strengthening cargo security and implementing Perimeter Intrusion Detection Systems to prevent a security breach.
- Others have suggested providing basic martial training to cabin crew as done in China and Singapore, increasing number of CISF personnel, installing full body scanners, etc.