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Current Affairs

Indian Antarctic bill

Date: 05 April 2022 Tags: Bills & Laws

Issue

 A draft Indian Antarctic Bill, 2020 has been brought by the government. It was tabled by the minister of Earth Sciences.

 

Background

The bill comes after nearly 40 years of India signing the Antarctic Treaty. It is the first domestic legislation regarding Antarctica in India.

 

Details

More than 27 signatory countries of Antarctic treaty have domestic legislation in place. India has been sending expedition to Antarctica from past 40 years by circumscribing international law.

 

Significance

  • The bill will introduce list of regulations related to Antarctica, for scientific expeditions, as well as for individuals, companies and tourists.

  • Enforcing domestic set of protocols will be essential as activity in Antarctica is set to increase in the coming years.

  • Validity to the Antarctic Treaty and subsequent protocols will be strengthened through a domestic legislation.

 

Striking feature

The bill extends the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica. Crimes committed in Antarctica by Indian citizens, or foreign citizens who are a part of Indian expeditions will come under it.

 

Antarctica treaty

  • The Treaty of Antarctica covers the area south of 60°S latitude and was signed in 1959 by 12 countries.

  • Signatories include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, French Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Union of South Africa, USSR, the UK and the USA.

  • The aim of the treaty is to demilitarize Antarctica and establish it as a zone used for peaceful research activities.

  • The treaty will set aside any disputes regarding territorial sovereignty and ensure international cooperation.

  • India signed the treaty in 1983 and received consultative status. Of the total 54 countries, only 29 have right to vote at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings.

 

Provisions of the bill

  • Apart from extending jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica, the bill sets up permit system for any expedition or individual who wishes to visit the continent.

  • A committee will be set up to decide on permits. The permit can be cancelled anytime if violations of laws are detected.

  • The bill will provide Indian tour operators to operate in Antarctica. It also provides permission for fishing activities in the area.

 

Punishing crimes

A special court will be set up to try crimes committed in Antarctica. High penalties are imposed for carrying out activities against the law.