Indian Antarctic Bill 2022

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    Recently, the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, which seeks to extend the jurisdiction of Indian courts to the icy continent, was cleared by the Lok Sabha.

    Key Points

    • The bill is set to become the first domestic legislation with regard to Antarctica in India.
    • Aim: Promoting Antarctica as a natural reserve that is devoted to science and peace, and to ensure that Antarctica does not become the scene of international discord.
    • Purpose of the Bill: The Bill seeks to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed in 1959 by 12 countries
      • It was implemented in 1961, and India, which has two permanent scientific stations 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 human presence in Antarctica.
      • In the future, the private ship 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 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 melting of glaciers may cause damage through flooding. 
      • That’s why it is essential to understand the impact of global warming 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 of 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, at Antarctica
        • Both these places are permanently manned by researchers.
    • Central committee: 
      • The central government 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 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
    • Prohibited activities: The Bill prohibits certain activities in Antarctica including: 
      • 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.
    • Offences and penalties: The Bill specifies penalties for contravention of its provisions. 
      • For instance, conducting a nuclear explosion in Antarctica will be punishable with an imprisonment of 20 years which may extend to life imprisonment and a fine of at least Rs 50 crore.  
      • Drilling for mineral resources or introducing non-native animals or plants in Antarctica without a permit will be punishable with imprisonment up to seven years and a fine between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 50 lakh. 
      • 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 offences 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 is applicable 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 marine living resources in Antarctica.
      • India ratified the CCAMLR on June 17, 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 Programme (COMNAP) and the Scientific Committee of Antarctica Research (SCAR), which shows the significant position that India holds among the nations involved in Antarctic research. 

     

    Antarctic Treaty

    • Location: Antarctica lies south of 60 degree South Latitude, which is a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science and should not become the scene or object of any international discord.
    • It was signed at Washington D.C. on the 1st December, 1959 and was initially signed by 12 countries. Since then, 42 other countries have acceded to the Treaty. 
    • Member: A total of fifty-four State Parties to the Treaty, twenty-nine countries have the status of Consultative Party with a right to vote in the Antarctic Consultative Meetings and twenty-five countries are Non-Consultative Parties having no right to vote. 
    • India signed the Antarctic Treaty on the 19th August, 1983 and received the consultative status on the 12th September, 1983.
    • Objective of the Treaty: Demilitarisation of Antarctica. The signatories are supposed to bring laws so that no activity in contravention of the treaty takes place. The law is supposed to take care of any violations, offer solutions and fix appropriate punishment.

    Source: IE