Amending the Weapons of Mass Destruction Act

Context: The Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022 was passed in the Lok Sabha recently.

The Bill amends the WMD and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005 which prohibits the unlawful manufacture, transport, or transfer of WMD (chemical, biological and nuclear weapons) and their means of delivery.

The recent amendment extends the scope of banned activities to include financing of already prohibited activities.

What was the purpose of the original WMD Act of 2005?

Its primary objective was to provide an integrated and overarching legislation on prohibiting unlawful activities in relation to all three types of WMD, their delivery systems and related materials, equipment and technologies.

It instituted penalties for contravention of these provisions such as imprisonment for a term not less than five years (extendable for life) as well as fines.

The Act was passed to meet an international obligation enforced by the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR)1540 of 2004.

UNSCR 1540 enforced three primary obligations upon nation states – a) to not provide any form of support to non-state actors seeking to acquire WMD, related materials, or their means of delivery, b) to adopt and enforce laws criminalising the possession and acquisition of such items by non-state actors, c) to adopt and enforce domestic controls over relevant materials, in order to prevent their proliferation.
What has the Amendment added to the existing Act?

The Amendment expands the scope to include prohibition of financing of any activity related to WMD and their delivery systems.

To prevent such financing, the Central government shall have the power to freeze, seize or attach funds, financial assets, or economic resources of suspected individuals (whether owned, held, or controlled directly or indirectly).

It also prohibits persons from making finances or related services available for other persons indulging in such activity.

What more should India do?

Domestic level

At the domestic level, this Amendment will have to be enforced through proper outreach measures to industry and other stakeholders to make them realise their obligations under the new provisions.

International level

It is also necessary that India keeps WMD security in international focus. Even countries which do not have WMD technology have to be sensitised to their role in the control framework to prevent weak links in the global control system. India can offer help to other countries on developing national legislation, institutions and regulatory framework through the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) or on bilateral basis.

What is the international significance of this legislation? What is in it for India?



Preventing acts of terrorism that involve WMD or their delivery systems requires building a network of national and international measures in which all nation states are equally invested.

Such actions strengthen global enforcement of standards relating to the export of sensitive items and preventing terrorist and black-market networks from gaining access to them.

Sharing of best practices on legislations and their implementation can enable harmonisation of global WMD controls.


It is in India’s interest to facilitate the highest controls at the international level and adopt them at the domestic level.

Having now updated its own legislation, India can demand the same of others, especially from those in its neighbourhood that have a history of proliferation and of supporting terrorist organisations.

Source: This post is based on the article “Amending the Weapons of Mass Destruction Act” published in The Hindu on 12th Apr 22.

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