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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 25 July, 2022

  • 8 Min Read

INDIA ANTARCTIC BILL 2022

INDIA ANTARCTIC BILL 2022

  • The Indian Antarctic bill 2022 was cleared by the Lok Sabha which seeks to extend the jurisdiction of Indian courts to the icy continent.
  • It aimed at having India’s own national measures for protecting the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystem.
  • It also provides a harmonious policy and regulatory framework for India’s Antarctic activities through a well-established legal mechanism.

Key Points of the bill

  • The bill is set to become the first Indian domestic legislation concerning Antarctica.
  • Aim: It aims at promoting Antarctica as a natural reserve that is devoted to science and peace, and also to ensure that Antarctica does not become the scene of international discord.
  • Purpose of the Bill: The main purpose of this bill seeks to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed in the year 1959 by 12 countries.
  • It was implemented in 1961, and India, which has two permanent scientific stations i.e., Matri and Bharti in the continent, became a signatory to it in 1983.

Need of the Bill:

  • There is growing concern over preserving the pristine Antarctic environment and ocean around Antarctica from the exploitation of marine living resources and the human presence in Antarctica.
  • In the future, the private ships and aviation industry will also start operations and promote tourism and fishing in Antarctica, which needs to be regulated.

Importance of global warming and melting of glaciers for India:

  • India is a coastal country, Goa, Mumbai, Kolkata, Kochi, Chennai, and many such places are located along the coast.
  • Any rise in the sea level due to the melting of glaciers may cause damage through flooding.
  • That’s why it is essential to understand the impact of global warming mainly on Antarctica.

Key Features of the Bill

Applicability:

  • The provisions of the Bill will apply to any person, vessel, or aircraft that is a part of an Indian expedition to Antarctica under a permit issued under the Bill.
  • Extending the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica for investigation and trial for crimes committed on the Arctic continent,
  • Introduced regulations to ensure that scientific missions or commercial expeditions do not harm the ecology of the continent.

Areas comprising Antarctica include:

  • The continent of Antarctica, including its ice shelves, and all areas of the continental shelf adjacent to it, and
  • All islands including their ice shelves, seas, and air space south of 60°S latitude.
  • Following its first expedition to Antarctica in 1982, India has now established two standing research stations, Bharti and Maitri, in Antarctica.
  • Both these places are permanently manned by researchers.

Central Committee:

  • The central government of India will establish a Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection.
  • The Committee will be chaired by the Secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

The functions of the Committee include:

  • Granting permits for the various activities,
  • Implementing and ensuring compliance with relevant international laws for the protection of the Antarctic environment,
  • Obtaining and reviewing the relevant information provided by parties to the Treaty, Convention, and Protocol, and

Prohibited activities: The Bill prohibits certain activities in Antarctica including:

  • The Nuclear explosion or disposal of radioactive wastes,
  • Introduction of non-sterile soil, and
  • Discharge of garbage, plastic, or other substances into the sea which is harmful to the marine environment.

Offenses and penalties: The Bill specifies penalties for the contravention of its provisions.

  • For instance, conducting a nuclear explosion in Antarctica will be punishable with an imprisonment of twenty years which may extend to life imprisonment and a fine of at least Rs 50 crore.
  • The central government may notify one or more Sessions Courts to be the Designated Court under the Bill and specify its territorial jurisdiction to try offenses punishable under the Bill.

Constitution of the Fund:

  • It provides for the constitution of the fund to be called the Antarctic fund which shall be applied towards the welfare of Antarctic research work and the protection of the Antarctic environment.

Challenge in the Bill:

  • The Bill applies to Indian citizens as well as foreign citizens. It is challenging to ensure the applicability of Indian law to foreign citizens.

India and Antarctica

Antarctic Treaty:

  • India signed the Antarctic Treaty on August 19, 1983. India is one of the 29 Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty.

CCAMLR:

  • The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was signed in Canberra on May 20, 1980, to protect and preserve the Antarctic environment and, particularly, for the preservation and conservation of the marine living resources in Antarctica.
  • India ratified the CCAMLR on June 17 in the year 1985.

Madrid Protocol:

  • The Protocol on the Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid Protocol) was signed in Madrid on October 4, 1991, to strengthen the Antarctic Treaty system and for the development of a comprehensive regime for the protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems.
  • India ratified the Madrid Protocol on January 14, 1998.

COMNAP:

  • India is also a member of the Council of Managers of the National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) and the Scientific Committee of Antarctica Research (SCAR), which shows the significant position that India holds among the nations involved in Antarctic research.

Source: PIB


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