A weapon of mass destruction refers to a radiological, nuclear, biological, chemical, or any other weapon that can cause significant harm as well as kill numerous individuals and also cause great damage to infrastructures, the biosphere, or the natural structures.
In recent times, the Lok Sabha passed the Weapons of mass destruction & their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill unanimously. The main objective of this bill is to provide against the financing of proliferation of WMD’s and their delivery systems in compliance with India’s international obligations. As per the objective of the Bill, the need to amend the Bill arises from the expanded scope of regulations related to proliferation of WMD’S by the international organizations and the fact that UNSC has targeted financial sanctions and recommendations of FATF have mandated against financing of WMD’s and their delivery systems.
It is to be noted that this amendment comes after the periodic review undertaken by UNSCR 1540 to track the success of its implementation and the identification of possible gaps in its enforcement. In the year 2016, the committee noted that the proliferation risk to non-state actors is increasing due to rapid advancements in science and technology as well as in international commerce. The objective of the amendment Bill in India echoes the crux of this review. By this amendment, two major gaps are being addressed. First to demand tighter control on the financing of WMD activities and second expanding the scope of the legislation so as to make it inclusive of the technologies in the current world scenario. The amended legislation includes many developments in drone technology and unauthorized works in biomedical labs that could be used for malicious purposes.
The current amendment was necessary so as to harmonize the existing legislation with the pre-existing legislation so that it matches the pace of the evolving threats to deter them. Amendments of these kinds cannot be afforded to remain fossilized.
In India, the WMD and its Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act came into being in July 2005. The main objective behind its inception was to provide a legislation on prohibition of unlawful activities pertaining to all types of WMDs, their delivery systems and materials, technology and equipment related to them.
The act also doled out punishments for contravention of these provisions which includes imprisonment for a term not less than five years (extendable to life imprisonment) with or without fines. This Act was passed to meet an international obligation enforced by UNSCR 1540 OF 2004.
Even though India is not signatory to any of the Cold War era nuclear pacts, her actions and responsible behaviors on the principles of non-proliferation are well known. Strong statutory national export control system and its commitment towards prevention of proliferation of WMD’S is applaudable. The Weapons of Mass Destruction Amendment Bill, 2022 was also essential so as to make sure that India keeps WMD security in international forefront.
This article is written by Aparna Kushwaha of Amity Law School, Noida.