WMD Bill passed by voice vote in Rajya Sabha; Opposition says the request for division ignored

The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Distribution System (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022 was passed in the Rajya Sabha on Monday amid slogans raised by opposition MPs against the arrest of Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.

The bill, introduced by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, seeks to ban the financing of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and empowers the Center to freeze, confiscate or attach financial assets of persons involved in such activities.

The bill, passed by the Lok Sabha in the last session, was passed by voice vote in the Upper House, which was challenged by several opposition MPs who alleged that it was passed despite the House being disrupted.

Later in the afternoon, the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, which seeks to extend domestic laws to Indian research stations in Antarctica and introduce a permit system for expeditions to Antarctica, was also passed through a voice vote.

On the “unanimous support” for WMD Bill, Jaishankar said, “All members have recognised that terrorism is a serious threat, that weapons of mass destruction are a serious threat, that there is a gap in the law. Currently, the law covers only trading; it does not cover financing. This gap needs to be filled because Recommendation 7 of the Financial Action Task Force requires all countries, including us, to ensure that financing for WMD-related activities is prohibited.”

“Keeping in mind the lacunae of the current law, we have brought this amendment,” he said.

Earlier, Opposition protests started with the commencement of the House at 2 pm, with TMC’s Derek O’Brien raising a point of order. “In the last six years, not even one issue under Rule 267 that the Opposition raised has been accepted. Not even one. Today, we are raising (one) on ED. Today, we are raising the issue of our colleague, Sanjay Raut,” O’Brien said.

Opposition MPs accused BJP’s Bhubaneswar Kalita, who was in the Chair, of not admitting any of their requests when he refused other points of order raised by Opposition members.

Ilamaram Karim of the CPI and Tiruchi Siva of the DMK challenged the Chairman that when the WMD Bill was passed, the division was not allowed. Kalita said that she “couldn’t hear” the request amid the noise of slogans.

“I have repeatedly asked for a split,” Karim said. “When I was demanding partition, how could you pass the bill?”

Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said the Speaker could have allowed a Bill to be passed when the order was not in the House but refused to accept the points of arrangement in similar circumstances.

Leader of the House Piyush Goyal hit back saying, “Leaders of the opposition are raising questions on the chair… None of our members was responsible for the disorder. Members of the opposition are creating chaos and then raising the issue of order.”

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