Parliament passes bill to extend domestic laws to Indian research stations in Antarctic region

India has two active research stations in the Antarctic -- Maitri and Bharti -- where scientists are involved in research.

New Delhi: Amid protests by the Opposition, Parliament on Monday passed a bill that seeks to extend the application of domestic laws to research stations set up by India in the Antarctic region.

The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, piloted in the Upper House by Earth Sciences Minister Jitendra Singh, was passed with a voice vote after a brief discussion. The bill was approved by the Lok Sabha on July 22.

The House rejected by voice vote several amendments moved by MPs of various Opposition parties, including one for sending the bill to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha for further scrutiny of the proposed legislation.

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The Opposition had demanded division on the amendment moved by CPI(M) MP John Brittas for sending the bill to the Select Committee.

Bhubaneswar Kalita, who was in the Chair, allowed the division of votes and called for closure of the lobbies to move ahead with the voting process.

With several members protesting in the Well of the House, Kalita said the division cannot take place unless MPs are on their allotted seats. As the several MPs of Congress, TMC, DMK, NCP and Left parties kept raising slogans while standing in the Well, Kalita announced that the division cannot be taken up.

“It looks like there is no demand for division (of votes). Majority of members do not want division,” Kalita said, as he moved ahead with the process of passage of the bill.

Officials pointed out that it may be the first stance in recent times that a division of votes was called by the Chair, but was not taken up.

All the amendments were negated and the bill was passed with voice vote. Soon thereafter, the House was adjourned till Tuesday as there was no supplementary agenda.

The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 seeks to extend the application of domestic laws to India’s research stations in the Antarctic region.

India has two active research stations in the Antarctic — Maitri and Bharti — where scientists are involved in research.

The bill proposes to prohibit Indian expedition to Antarctica without a permit or written authorisation of another party to the Antarctic Treaty, provides for inspection by an officer appointed by the government and for penalty for contravention of certain provisions of the legislation.

It also seeks to constitute a fund for the welfare of Antarctic research work and protection of the environment of the icy continent.

The Opposition members in the Rajya Sabha also protested the arrest of Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut by the Enforcement Directorate and demanded a discussion on the role of central investigation agencies by suspending all listed business of the day.

Two Shiv Sena MPs, who were protesting in the House earlier in the day, were not present in the Rajya Sabha when both The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 and The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022, were passed.

The Opposition MPs were also raising other issues, including price rise. The proceedings of the House have remained disrupted since day one of the monsoon session which started on July 18.

Earlier, participating in the discussion on the bill, Niranjan Reddy Sirgapoor (YSRCP) supported the legislation and so did G K Vasan (TMC-M), M Thambidurai (AIADMK) and Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar (TDP).

While supporting the bill, Sushil Kumar Modi of BJP said India will have a chance to get an opportunity to participate in marine fishing in Antarctica, the fifth largest continent. He said there is also a provision of penalty if laws are violated, and creation of an Antarctica Fund.

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