Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 was introduced in Lok Sabha on April 1st, 2022. It’s a question in mind can we introduce a bill on a region that is neutral for all countries of the world. So its answer is yes we can do this. 27 countries are a part of the Antarctica Treaty including Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, USA, UK, etc. India is now following suit after 40years of the Antarctica treaty.
The Antarctica treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries i.e. USA, UK, Japan, etc. The main objectives of the treaty are to Demilitarize Antarctica and Establish it as a zone used for peaceful research activities. Currently, 54 nations are signatories to the antarctic treaty, but only 29 nations have a right to vote at the antarctic treaty consultative meeting. This includes India. India has signed the antarctic treaty in 1983.
Conventions and Protocols for the Preservation of the Antarctic Region
1) The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was set up in 1980.
2) The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed in the year 1991.
Need of Law
According to the Government, it expects activities in Antarctica to increase in the coming years, making the enforcement of a domestic set of protocols essential. Domestic legislation will further provide more validity to the Antarctic Treaty and subsequent protocols of which India is a signatory.
Indian Antarctic program is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional program under the control of the national center for polar and ocean research Goa which was initiated in 1981. 40 expeditions to the Antarctic have been completed till now.
Provisions of the Bill
The most significant part of the Bill is exceeding the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica, for crimes on the continent by Indian nationals or foreign citizens who are a part of Indian expeditions. The Bill also introduces an elaborate permit system for any expedition or individual who wishes to visit the continent.