The Indian Antarctic Bill and its various provisions

Present Status: Passed in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Received the assent of the President on the 6th of August 2022.
What is the News?

Lok Sabha has introduced the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022. The Bill aims to lay down a set of rules to regulate a range of activities on territories in Antarctica where India has set up research stations.

What are the key provisions of the Indian Antarctic Bill,2022?

Regulate Activities to Antarctica: It aims to regulate visits and activities to Antarctica, as well as potential disputes that may arise among those present on the continent. 

Inspection of Vessels: It lays out a structure for government officials to inspect a vessel and conduct checks of research facilities.

Antarctic fund: It directs the creation of a fund called the Antarctic fund that will be used for protecting the Antarctic environment.

Penal Provisions: It extends the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica. It also lays out penal provisions for crimes on the continent by Indian citizens, and foreign citizens who are a part of Indian expeditions or are in the precincts of Indian research stations.

Establishment of Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection: It will monitor, implement and ensure compliance with the relevant international laws, emissions standards and rules of protection.

Prohibitory Activities: It prohibits mining, dredging and activities that threaten the pristine conditions of the continent. It also bans any person, vessel or aircraft from disposing waste in Antarctica and bars the testing of nuclear devices.

– It also provides that private tours and expeditions to Antarctica would be prohibited without a permit or the written authorization by a member country. 

Why was the need for Antarctica Bill?

Firstly, India had been a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty since 1983. The treaty makes it mandatory to specify a set of laws governing portions of the continent where it had its research bases.

Secondly,  India is also signatory to treaties such as the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the Protocol on the Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty – both of which enjoin India to help preserve the pristine nature of the continent.

What is Antarctic Treaty?

The Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961. The Treaty covers the area south of 60°S latitude. 

Objectives: 1) To demilitarize Antarctica 2) To establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only 3) To promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica and 4) To set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.

Signatories: Of the 54 signatory countries to the treaty, 29 have consultative status that give them voting rights.

Source: This post is based on the article “The Indian Antarctic Bill and its various provisions” published in The Hindu on 6th April 2022.

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