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Explained: What Is the Indian Antarctic Bill 2022 and Who Is It For?

How will India's first domestic legislation on Antarctica change our interaction with the region? Here's a primer.

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Explained: What Is the Indian Antarctic Bill 2022 and Who Is It For?
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Almost 40 years after India signed the Antarctic Treaty, the Lok Sabha, on Friday, 22 July, passed the Indian Antarctic Bill, first introduced in the lower house on 1 April by Union Minister Jitendra Singh.

The bill, which was passed during the Parliament's Monsoon Session, is one among a series of "green bills" that are to be introduced, including the Coffee (Promotion and Development) Bill 2021, the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill 2022 and the widely contested Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2022.

So, what will this include? Who will it impact and what are the penalties for violation? Here's a primer.

Explained: What Is the Indian Antarctic Bill 2022 and Who Is It For?

  1. 1. What Is the Indian Antarctic Bill 2022?

    Although India has been sending expeditions to Antarctica since 1981, the bill is the country's first domestic legislation related to it. It will regulate Indian activities in the region to protect the Antarctic environment.

    Prior to this, all Indian expeditions to Antarctica were regulated by international law.

    Besides providing further validity to the Antarctic treaty, the Ministry of Earth Sciences has defined the Antarctic region for the purpose of the bill and mentioned prohibited activities, including nuclear explosion and the disposal of radioactive waste.

    Twenty-seven countries, including United States, Australia, Germany, United Kingdom, Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine already have domestic legislation on Antarctica.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Does the Antarctic Region Include?

    The continent of Antarctica, including its ice-shelves, and all areas of the continental shelf adjacent to it along with all islands (including their ice-shelves), seas, and air space south of 60°S latitude, are part of the legislation's jurisdiction.

    Expand
  3. 3. Who Does the Bill Apply To?

    The provisions of the Bill will apply to any person, vessel or aircraft that is a part of an Indian expedition to Antarctica. The expedition can only be done after a permit is issued by a committee formed under the bill.

    Expand
  4. 4. Who Will Be Part of the Committee?

    The Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection, which will be established by the Union government, will have 10 members, not below the rank of joint secretary and two experts.

    The committee will be chaired by the secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the members will be nominated from various ministries and organisations such as defence, external affairs, National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, and the National Security Council Secretariat.

    The experts will have to be specialists in the Antarctic environment and geopolitics to be nominated.

    Expand
  5. 5. What Is the Role of the Committee?

    • Granting permits for various activities

    • Implementing and ensuring compliance of relevant international laws for protection of the region's environment

    • Obtaining and reviewing relevant information provided by parties to the treaty, convention, and protocol

    • Negotiating fees/charges with other parties for activities in Antarctica

    Expand
  6. 6. What Will Warrant a Permit?

    • An Indian expedition to enter or remain in Antarctica

    • A person to enter or remain in an Indian station in Antarctica

    • A vessel or aircraft registered in India to enter or remain in Antarctica

    • A person or vessel to drill, dredge or excavate for mineral resources, or collect samples of mineral resources

    • Activities which may harm native species

    • Waste disposal by a person, vessel or aircraft in Antarctica

    Further, before a permit is granted by the committee, the applicant has to carry out an environmental impact assessment of the proposed activities. A permit will not be granted unless a waste management plan has been prepared for the expedition by the committee.

    Expand
  7. 7. What Activities Are Prohibited Under the Bill?

    The bill does not allow nuclear explosion or disposal of radioactive wastes in the region and the introduction of non-sterile soil. It also prohibits the disposal of garbage, plastic or other substances harmful to the marine environment, into the sea.

    Expand
  8. 8. What Will Be the Penalties on Violation?

    On defying the conventions of the bill, the following penalties will be applicable:

    • Conducting a nuclear explosion in Antarctica will be punished with 20 years in jail, which may extend to life imprisonment, along with 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 seven years in jail and a fine between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 50 lakh

    Expand
  9. 9. Which Courts Can Hear Cases Related to This?

    One or more sessions courts will be designated to try offences under the bill. The Union government will also specify the territorial jurisdiction of the courts.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Is the Indian Antarctic Bill 2022?

Although India has been sending expeditions to Antarctica since 1981, the bill is the country's first domestic legislation related to it. It will regulate Indian activities in the region to protect the Antarctic environment.

Prior to this, all Indian expeditions to Antarctica were regulated by international law.

Besides providing further validity to the Antarctic treaty, the Ministry of Earth Sciences has defined the Antarctic region for the purpose of the bill and mentioned prohibited activities, including nuclear explosion and the disposal of radioactive waste.

Twenty-seven countries, including United States, Australia, Germany, United Kingdom, Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine already have domestic legislation on Antarctica.

ADVERTISEMENT

What Does the Antarctic Region Include?

The continent of Antarctica, including its ice-shelves, and all areas of the continental shelf adjacent to it along with all islands (including their ice-shelves), seas, and air space south of 60°S latitude, are part of the legislation's jurisdiction.

Who Does the Bill Apply To?

The provisions of the Bill will apply to any person, vessel or aircraft that is a part of an Indian expedition to Antarctica. The expedition can only be done after a permit is issued by a committee formed under the bill.

ADVERTISEMENT

Who Will Be Part of the Committee?

The Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection, which will be established by the Union government, will have 10 members, not below the rank of joint secretary and two experts.

The committee will be chaired by the secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the members will be nominated from various ministries and organisations such as defence, external affairs, National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, and the National Security Council Secretariat.

The experts will have to be specialists in the Antarctic environment and geopolitics to be nominated.

What Is the Role of the Committee?

  • Granting permits for various activities

  • Implementing and ensuring compliance of relevant international laws for protection of the region's environment

  • Obtaining and reviewing relevant information provided by parties to the treaty, convention, and protocol

  • Negotiating fees/charges with other parties for activities in Antarctica

ADVERTISEMENT

What Will Warrant a Permit?

  • An Indian expedition to enter or remain in Antarctica

  • A person to enter or remain in an Indian station in Antarctica

  • A vessel or aircraft registered in India to enter or remain in Antarctica

  • A person or vessel to drill, dredge or excavate for mineral resources, or collect samples of mineral resources

  • Activities which may harm native species

  • Waste disposal by a person, vessel or aircraft in Antarctica

Further, before a permit is granted by the committee, the applicant has to carry out an environmental impact assessment of the proposed activities. A permit will not be granted unless a waste management plan has been prepared for the expedition by the committee.

What Activities Are Prohibited Under the Bill?

The bill does not allow nuclear explosion or disposal of radioactive wastes in the region and the introduction of non-sterile soil. It also prohibits the disposal of garbage, plastic or other substances harmful to the marine environment, into the sea.

ADVERTISEMENT

What Will Be the Penalties on Violation?

On defying the conventions of the bill, the following penalties will be applicable:

  • Conducting a nuclear explosion in Antarctica will be punished with 20 years in jail, which may extend to life imprisonment, along with 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 seven years in jail and a fine between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 50 lakh

Which Courts Can Hear Cases Related to This?

One or more sessions courts will be designated to try offences under the bill. The Union government will also specify the territorial jurisdiction of the courts.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Edited By :Tejas Harad
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