The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022
The Union government of India recently introduced the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, which aims to regulate a range of activities on the territories in Antarctica where India has established research stations. The Bill was introduced by Union Science Minister, Jitendra Singh, in the Lok Sabha, and aims to address potential disputes that may arise among those present on the continent, as well as prescribe penal provisions for certain serious violations. If passed, the Bill would extend the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica and outline penal provisions for crimes committed on the continent by Indian citizens, foreign citizens who are a part of Indian expeditions, or are in the precincts of Indian research stations.
Regulating Visits and Activities in Antarctica:
One of the main objectives of the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, is to regulate visits and activities in Antarctica. Private tours and expeditions to the continent would be prohibited without a permit or written authorization from a member country, which refers to one of the 54 signatories of the Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959. India joined the Treaty System in 1983. The Bill also allows for government officials to inspect vessels and conduct checks of research facilities.
Protection of the Antarctic Environment:
The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, includes provisions for the protection of the continent's environment. It directs the creation of a fund called the Antarctic fund, which will be used for this purpose. The Bill also prohibits activities such as mining, dredging, and waste disposal that may threaten the pristine conditions of Antarctica. It also bans the testing of nuclear devices and any person, vessel, or aircraft from disposing waste in the continent.
Establishing a Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection:
In addition to these provisions, the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, establishes a Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection. This committee will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Bill and ensuring compliance with its provisions.
India's Presence in Antarctica:
India has been conducting research in Antarctica since 1982, when it conducted its first expedition to the continent. Since then, it has established two permanent research stations, Bharati and Maitri, at Antarctica. Both of these stations are manned by researchers on a permanent basis.
Overall, the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, aims to regulate visits and activities in Antarctica and protect the continent's environment. It prohibits private tours and expeditions without a permit or written authorization from a member country and includes provisions for penalizing defaulters. The Bill also establishes a Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection and allows for the inspection of vessels and research facilities by government officials. It extends the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica and includes penal provisions for crimes committed on the continent by Indian citizens or foreign citizens who are a part of Indian expeditions or are in the precincts of Indian research stations.