The Author, Saksham Grover is a 3rd year, BBA.LLB student of Delhi Metropolitan Education, GGSIPU. He is currently interning with LatestLaws.com.
As an era of development and technological advancement continues globally, it is becoming a major need of the hour for India to possess security mechanisms of its own. With an increasing risk to the security of the nations, the employment of non-conventional weapons is now a practical reality.
The term “weapons of mass destruction” has been defined by Merriam Webster as “weapons that can destroy entire cities, regions, etc.”
The various weapons of mass destruction which include nuclear, biological and chemical weapons all pose a distinct challenge to international peace and security. There is undoubtedly a need for each nation to ensure the security of their masses; however, abusive use of these devices can cause sizeable destruction.
Therefore, it is necessary to enact a legal system to guide the usage of such weapons. The main sources of laws relating to weapons of mass destruction include international treaties, conventions and agreements which are generally enforced by organizations such as the United Nations.
India is one such nation that possesses nuclear weapons since a long time now without a clear disclosure of the size of these weapons. India has opposed the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and is not a signatory to the same stating the treaties as ‘discriminatory’. The firm stand that India has however taken regarding the usage and other activities relating to the weapons of mass destruction has played a major role in the enactment and adoption of legislations to regulate such activities.
Q1. What is the aim of the act?
Ans. The act aims to prohibit unlawful activities relating to weapons of mass destruction such as chemical, nuclear weapons and their delivery system and for issues connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Q2. Whether the Act is applicable to all of India?
Ans. The Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005 if presently applicable all over India including its Exclusive Economic Zones. Exclusive economic zones refer to the area beyond the territorial sea extending seaward to 370 km out from its coastline.
Q3. What class of entities are covered under the act?
Ans. The provisions of this act are applicable to:
- citizens of India inhabiting outside India
- companies or bodies corporate, registered or incorporated in India, or having their associates, branches or subsidiaries outside India
- any, ship or aircraft or transport means whether registered in India or outside India
- foreigners while in India
- persons in the service of Government of India, within or beyond India
Q4. What are weapons of mass destruction?
Ans. A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that has the ability to kill or harm a large number of population. There has never been recognized a particular number or nature of such weapons, though usually, these weapons include nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
A nuclear weapon uses nuclear fission reactions to create an explosion. In a nuclear fission reaction, the nucleus of a large atom is broken down into smaller ones, releasing large amounts of energy. This kind of reaction also produces neutrons, and those neutrons can cause more fission reactions. Putting enough radioactive material together creates a chain reaction, as each fission reaction causes multiple other reactions until all of the material is used up.
A chemical weapon uses chemicals created specifically to inflict death or injury to humans. Examples include nerve gases, tear gas and pepper spray.
A Biological weapon is made up of any number of disease-producing agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, toxins or other biological agents that may be utilized as weapons against humans, animals or plants.
Q5. What activities relating to weapons of mass destruction are made punishable under the act?
Ans. The activities covered by the provisions of the act include export, transfer, re-transfer, transit and trans-shipment of equipment, material or technology of any description as identified by the Central Government.
- Section 10 of the act clearly states that no person shall unlawfully manufacture, acquire, possess, develop or transport a nuclear weapon, nuclear explosive devices, biological, chemical weapons and also any missiles specially designed for the delivery of weapons of mass destruction.
- Section 11 of the act prohibits the export of any material, equipment or technology with the knowledge that such technology is intended to be used to design biological, chemical or nuclear weapons or any other nuclear explosive device or their delivery systems.
- Section 12 of the act also prohibits brokering i.e. arrange or negotiate knowingly any transaction prohibited under the Weapons of mass destruction and their delivery system (prohibition of unlawful activities) act, 2005.
Q6. What are the punishments and penalties provided for offences under The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005?
Ans. The act provides various provisions for punishments and penalties for offences under the act:
- Section 14 of the act states that any violation or attempt to violate or abets, the provisions of Section 8 of the act i.e. Prohibition relating to weapons of mass destruction and Section 10 i.e. Prohibition as regards intimidating acts is punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
- Section 15 makes punishable any intention to aid non-state actor or terrorist by violating provisions of Section 9 of the act i.e. Prohibition relating to non-state actor or terrorist with an imprisonment for a term not less than five years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and, with fine. Also, the court is liable to take into consideration the fact whether the offender had the knowledge of transferee being a non-state actor or not while determining the punishment.
- Section 16 of the act states out the punishment for unauthorized export and for the contravention, abetment or attempt to contravene the provisions of sub-section (4) of Section 13 with a fine which shall not be less than three lakh rupees and which may extend to twenty lakh rupees. The section also makes second conviction under the same offence punishable with an imprisonment which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and also, with fine.
- Section 18 of the act makes punishable usage of forged documents and making forged documents with a fine which shall not be less than five lakh rupees or five times the value of technology, equipment, materials or services, whichever is more.
- Section 19 of the act also states that if a person violates any rule or order under the act for which no specific punishment has been provided under the act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or both.
- The act under Section 20 also provides for offences by companies i.e. a body corporate and includes a firm and other association of individuals. This Section makes punishable any person, who at the time the offence was committed by the company, was in charge of or responsible for the conduct of the company. However, the section does not provide any specific punishment or penalty for the offence, it states that any such offender shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
Q7. Can a court take cognizance of any offence under this act?
Ans. A court has to obtain a prior sanction of the Central Government or any officer authorized by the Central Government before taking cognizance of any offence under The Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005. (Section 21)