Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Bill

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    In News

    • Recently, the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Bill was passed by voice vote in Rajya Sabha.

    Major Highlights

    • The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022, was introduced by the External Affairs Minister.
    • Aim: It seeks to ban funding of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
    • Opposition’ stand: 
      • The Bill, passed by Lok Sabha in the previous session, was passed by a voice vote in the Upper House, a move challenged by several Opposition MPs, who alleged that it had been passed even as the House remained disrupted.
    • Centre’s stand: Unanimous support: All members have recognised that:
      • Terrorism is a serious threat,
      • Weapons of mass destruction are a serious threat, 
      • There is a gap in the law. 
    • Gap from previous law, filled: 
      • Currently, the law covers only trading; it does not cover financing. 
      • This gap needed to be filled. 

    Image Courtesy: ET 

    Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022

    • About: 
      • It was introduced in Lok Sabha on April 5, 2022. 
      • The Bill amends the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005. 
    • 2005 Act: It prohibits unlawful activities (such as manufacturing, transport, or transfer) related to weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery. 
    • Weapons of mass destruction are biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons.
    • Prohibition on financing certain activities: The Bill bars persons from financing any prohibited activity related to weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. 
    • Power to Central Government: 
      • To prevent persons from financing such activities, the central government may freeze, seize or attach their funds, financial assets, or economic resources (whether owned, held, or controlled directly or indirectly). 
      • It may also prohibit persons from making finances or related services available for the benefit of other persons in relation to any activity which is prohibited.

    Significance

    • Funding: The existing Act was silent on the financing of such WMDs but this amendment has brought teeth to the Act.
    • Strengthened Centre: The Act has given powers to the Central Government to seize, freeze or control the economic resources used in unlawful WMDs.
    • As per the norms of FATF: Recommendation 7 of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) requires all countries to ensure that financing for WMD-related activities is prohibited.

    Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

    • WMDs are weapons with the capacity to inflict death and destruction on such a massive scale and so indiscriminately that its very presence in the hands of a hostile power can be considered a grievous threat. 
    • Modern weapons of mass destruction are either nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons—frequently referred to collectively as NBC weapons.
    • Conventions to outlaw such WMDs:
      • Biological Weapons Convention (BWC):
        • The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) effectively prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons. 
        • It was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
        • The BWC is a key element in the international community’s efforts to address WMD proliferation and it has established a strong norm against biological weapons. 
        • The Convention has reached almost universal membership with 184 States Parties and four Signatory States. 
      • Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC):
        • After 12 years of negotiations, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was adopted by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on 3 September 1992. 
        • The CWC allows for the stringent verification of compliance by State Parties. 
        • The CWC opened for signature in Paris on 13 January 1993 and entered into force on 29 April 1997. 
        • The CWC is the first disarmament agreement negotiated within a multilateral framework that provides for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction under universally applied international control.
    • India is signatory to both these conventions but is not signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which is another international arrangement to fight the growth of WMDs.

    Way Ahead

    • Expedited efforts have to be put in by the international community together with support from the nuclear-weapon states for guaranteeing a safer and peaceful world.
    • Biological weapons are of the greatest concern to mankind in the contemporary world among all the components of weapons of mass destruction hence requiring a stringent verification mechanism.
    • The only way to completely eliminate nuclear risks is to eliminate nuclear weapons from the planet.

    Source: IE