Title : Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill, 2019
DR.T. SUMATHY (A)THAMIZHACHI THANGAPANDIAN (CHENNAI SOUTH):
Thank you very much Chairperson, Sir, for having given me this opportunity to speak on the Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill, 2019.
At the outset, I would like to associate myself with the hon. Member of Parliament Dr. Manish Tewari to change the nomenclature as Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill.
“My story starts at sea, a perilous voyage to an unknown land. A shipwreck. The wild waters roar and heave. The brave vessel is dashed all to pieces. And all the helpless souls within her drowned.”
Thus, Shakespeare describes the natural calamities and dangers of a sea voyage. But apart from these, the pirates of the sea are the most dangerous threat who seize, destroy any ship at high seas and sometimes even at the harbours. Also, they are involved in many other illegal activities like smuggling and slave trades. So, the sea piracy mafia needs to be dealt with an iron fist and so, I really appreciate our Government’s initiative to bell the cat legally through this Bill.
Sir, according to the International Maritime Bureau of the ICC, piracy attacks on ships were increased by 20 per cent between 2019-2020. India, as the largest stakeholder in maritime trade, having a crew and officers, constitute nearby 10 per cent of the global seafaring community. And, that is high time to have this Bill passed and we have a Union Minister for the External Affairs here right now Dr. S. Jaishankar who has laboured much to bring this Bill to see the light of the day. I appreciate whole-heartedly his efforts and hope this will bring sea changes in the Indian maritime history.
Sir, the Union Government is bringing the law as part of the commitment made by India while signing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982 and the UNCLOS was ratified by India in 1995.
I welcome this Bill but would like to draw the attention of this august House, through you, to some major incidents.
Sir, the introduction of this Bill comes some days after 18 Indians aboard of the crude oil ship carrier who were kidnapped of the Coast of Nigeria. Some time ago also, the House would not have forgotten, an incident had been reported about, our fellow Keralite fisherman being killed by the authorities in an Italian Naval Ship. Since there were lacunae in the legal system, much had been deliberated and spoken about and even when we were waiting for the offenders to be punished, they were just let go which was a very sad thing.
I would like to bring those incidents to the attention of this august House because that is how, this Bill seems to be very important. So, to have a separate domestic legislation on piracy as well as taking care of the fellow fishermen from all the States of India is very important. That is the point I would like to make here. So far, we have to rely on the Indian Penal Code relating to the offence of war time piracy in India and penal codes are only applicable upto to territorial waters.
Also, the international naval presence in the Gulf of Eden made the pirate to have a paradigm shift to East and Southwards. So, everybody’s eyes are now upto the Southern part. I appreciate the initiative to pass this Bill after so much mulling over and discussions from 2019 onwards as have been pointed out by my esteemed colleagues. However, during the 15th Lok Sabha, a redrafted Bill was presented and it was lapsed.
Sir, why I am pointing out the detailed effort is that while so much efforts have been taken by the Union Government and are showing keen interest and evident interest to safeguard Indians, our trade and other sea-faring activities, sheer neglect has been shown to Tamilian fishermen throughout. Are we not the children of our Bharat Mata, as they proudly say? Whenever there is an attack on a Tamilian fisherman by the Sri Lankan Navy, the newspaper headlines will scream — Tamilian fishermen have been attacked. Whereas, when fishermen in the coast of Gujarat are attacked … (Interruptions) I will not budge … (Interruptions) then the headlines will read – Indian fishermen are attacked. Why is this step-motherly treatment to us? Our hon. Chief minister, Thalapati M. K. Stalin has, umpteen number of times, raised this issue and our floor leader of the Lok Sabha, respected Shri T R Baalu also has raised this issue in Parliament, but recently how many such incidents have been listed?
Six hundred fishermen have been killed in the recent times and thousands of their fishing vessels have been seized in the last 30 years, but the Government has not taken any stringent action – other than negotiations, table conferences and diplomatic talks — through a proper legal framework.
Sir, another important point that I would like to bring to your notice is about Katchatheevu. Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka under the 1976 Agreement and also without the approval of the two Houses of Parliament. Diplomatic efforts were of no avail so far as the issues of fishermen and others were concerned. India should step into action to reclaim and bring it under our sovereignty. If necessary, the International Court of Justice may also be approached.
I welcome this important piece of legislation whereby the Union Government will be empowered to notify designated courts for the trials of piracy and also increase the scope of maritime navigation beyond the territorial waters to cover EEZ. I would like to request the hon. Minister to kindly set up one or more Sessions Court in the southern part of India, especially in Tamil Nadu. That is our request. As has been pointed out by my respected colleagues here, death penalty, as a punishment, is not at all advisable and as has been very rightly pointed out by the hon. Minister himself also, we hope that it would be abolished. It is because we have had the history of Justice V R Krishna Iyer, a pioneer of judicial activism, who strongly advocated against capital punishment. Our hon. Chief minister also is against it; all of us are against it. Our own Mahatma Gandhi said, `I cannot, in all conscience, agree to anyone being brought to gallows’. Even countries like USA and Italy have refrained from awarding capital punishment. Sir, apart from this, I have a few suggestions. The Standing Committee has stated that the role of the State Government has to be clearly defined in order to emphasise and an promote effective coordination mechanism. I would request the Government to kindly take that aspect into account. There is no mention of international cooperation for the repression of piracy in this Bill. This point should also be addressed. Our hon. Prime Minister has proudly announced, as head of the G-20 Summit – One Earth, one family, one future. I would like to request the hon. Minister to consider the interest of the fishermen of Tamil Nadu also because local issues are very important and need to be addressed. We are very happy and welcome this piece of legislation. But still the Government has to take into account the plight of our fishermen.
With all these suggestions and requests, I would like to once again request the hon. Minister to take into account the above points before passing the Bill. Thank you.