The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 | Explain by

The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 | Explain by

The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 | Explain by

The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 

The Lok Sabha passed the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022. The Bill regulates the framework for India’s Antarctic activities through legal mechanisms which will help in the efficient operation of the Indian Antarctic Programme. The Indian courts will have jurisdiction to deal with crimes and disputes committed by Indian citizens in parts of Antarctica. The key objective of the Bill is to establish Antarctica as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste.

What is the Antarctic treaty- The 12 Countries Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the USSR, the UK and the United State signed the Antarctic treaty on December 1, 1959. The member countries key objective was to demilitarize Antarctica, promote international scientific cooperation, and to set aside territorial sovereignty disputes.

After that, more countries joined the Antarctic treaty. Now 54 member countries are there and 29 countries have consultative (voting) status in the Antarctic Consultative Meetings held annually and 25 countries have non-consultative membership. On August 19, 1983, and on September 12, 1983, India became a member of the Antarctic Treaty and received consultative status.

The Indian Antarctic Bill and its key features- The Bill seeks to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. Under the provisions of the Bill, private tours and expeditions to Antarctica will be prohibited without a permit or the written authorization by a Member country.

On whom it is applicable? – The provisions of the Bill will be applicable to any person, vessel or aircraft that is a part of an Indian expedition, which includes the Continent, its ice shelves, and all areas of the continental shelf and its islands.

Establishment of Committee- In this Bill provision for establishment of committees are there. The Secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences will be the head of the Committee. It consists of 10 members (not below the rank of joint secretary) from various Ministries and organizations such as defense, external affairs, National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, and National Security Council Secretariat. Apart from this, two experts from Antarctic environment and geo-political fields will also be responsible for implementing and compliance of relevant International Laws for protection of the Antarctic environment.

The functions of the Committees are-

  • Granting permits for various activities,

  • Implementing and ensuring compliance of relevant international laws for protection of Antarctic environment,

  • Obtaining and reviewing relevant information provided by parties to the Treaty, Convention, and Protocol, and

  • Negotiating fees/charges with other parties for activities in Antarctica.

Creation of Antarctic Fund- The Bill also introduced about the creation of Antarctic fund which will be used for the protection Antarctic environment.

Extension of Jurisdiction- In this Bill provisions related to extension the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica are there for crimes on the continent by Indian citizens, or foreign citizens who are part of Indian expeditions.

The Bill prohibits certain activities-

  • Nuclear explosion or disposal of radioactive wastes,

  • Introduction of non-sterile soil, and

  • Discharge of garbage, plastic or other substance into the sea which is harmful to the marine environment.

Offences and Penalties- The Bill prohibits for conducting a nuclear explosion in Antarctica. In case of violations, it will be punishable with imprisonment of 20 years which may extend to life imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 50 crore. It also prohibits for drilling of mineral resources or introducing non-native animals or plants in Antarctica.

Conclusion- The Indian Antarctic Bill prohibits any person, vessel or aircraft from disposing waste in Antarctica and bars the testing of nuclear devices. The Bill also empowers government officials to inspect a vessel, conduct checks of research facilities. The permission will also be required for various activities such as:

  • An Indian expedition to enter or remain in Antarctica,

  • A person to enter or remain in an Indian station in Antarctica,

  • A vessel or aircraft registered in India to enter or remain in Antarctica,

  • A person or vessel to drill, dredge or excavate for mineral resources, or collect samples of mineral resources,

  • Activities which may harm native species, and

  • Waste disposal by a person, vessel or aircraft in Antarctica.

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