The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery System (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005 (hereinafter referred to as the Act), came into the picture to fulfil India’s objective of disarmament and its commitment towards a convention prohibiting the development, production and stockpiling of chemical, biological and toxic weapons and for prevention of transfer of any weapons relating to mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, or any other Nuclear devices.
The Act was passed to meet an international obligation enforced by the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 of 2004. The obligation was formed from the fear of non-state actors gaining weapons of mass destruction and an increase in the number of terrorist activities.
The obligation provided for 3 major things – not to deliver, transport or provide any kind of weapons of mass destruction, ensure domestic control and criminalise the possession and acquisition with non-state entities.
The Act provides for its extraterritorial operation if it is committed in the Exclusive Economic Zone. The extent of the provisions of this Act apply to citizens of India outside India, companies registered or incorporated in India or having its subsidiaries, outside India, all ships and aircrafts registered in India or outside India, foreigners while in India and persons in service for the Government of India, within and beyond India
The Meaning Of Weapons Of Mass Destruction And Its Regulation
The words weapon of mass destruction includes biological weapons, chemical weapons and nuclear weapons not used for peaceful purposes. Definitions of some of the weapons of mass destruction are defined under Section 4 of the Act as follows:
- Biological weapons mean all the weapons including biological agents or microbial.
- Chemical weapons mean toxic chemicals except used for the purpose of agriculture, research, industrial or pharmaceutical or any other peaceful purposes.
- Nuclear devices include all those weapons notified by the Central government.
The Act under Section 13 regulates the export, transfer, re-transfer, transit, and transshipment by any non- State entity. Section 21 provides that, to conduct a trial under the Act, any Court of law must take permission from the Government of India, or any competent office as notified by the Central government in this regard. The Act from Sections 14 to 17 covers a range of activities like punishment for aiding non- State actor or terrorist, unauthorised export, violation of other provisions of the Act, that invite fine, penalties and imprisonment. Section 18 invites punishment for using false or making forged documents, with a fine not less than Rs. 5,00,00 or five times the value of the goods so falsified or forged whichever is more.
The Act not only covers people but goes on to include the definition of a person by providing separate punishment for offences committed by companies, Association of Person and Firms under Section 20 of the Act. Section 22 prohibits the power of the Civil Courts to deal with the matters under the Act, in addition, prohibits the application of the Act on the acts of the Central Government in the security and defence of India.
Amendment in the 2005 Act in the 2022 Act
Though the Act was in place there were many non-state entities being funded due to advancements in international transactions and commerce. To cover threats due to such financing the amendment was necessary. The main feature the amendment added to the current system is prevention of financing and the delivery of weapons of mass destruction. The Amendment added Section 12A to the existing act to combat these challenges and provides that no person shall indulge in financing any activities which are prohibited under the Act or under United Nations Security Council Act, 1947. The Section also provides power to the Central Government, or any other member provided by a notification by Central Government under Section 7 of the Act to prevent act of financing or any of the acts prohibited by the Act. The Central government has the power to seize such funds, assets or any economic resources being used for such activities. It also prevents a person from indirectly funding or indulging in similar activities.
The present Act attempts to develop an environment free from non- State entities indulging in activities prevented by the Act and fulfilling obligations of India to the UNSC (United Nations Security Council). The Act is well in place and up to date to meet the standards of safety for the public of the Nation. It promotes internal security of the nation and will help curb the activities of non-state actors or people who might pose a threat to mass destruction of life and property and endangered peace and harmony.