The Lok Sabha on Thursday deferred a discussion on the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, after the government urged the Chair to take up the Bill on another day since Opposition members were not present in the House.
The Bill was listed for consideration and passing on Thursday.
As soon as the House re-assembled at 2.15 pm after lunch break, BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab, who was in the Chair, called the name of Jitendra Singh, Union MoS (Independent Charge) Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, whose ministry has piloted the Bill.
Singh said, “Today, members are absent in a large number. The Opposition is also not present. I would like to suggest/request; the final decision will be yours. This is an important Bill related to Antarctica. This is the first time this issue has come up for discussion. There are many important aspects. Therefore, can we take up this Bill another day?”
The Bill, he added, has already been introduced and is at the stage of consideration.
The Bill was introduced by the government in Lok Sabha on April 1, against views expressed by the Opposition.
Agreeing that the Bill is important, and will be good if it gets discussed, Mahtab said, “There is a need to take sense of the House.”
“As the minister just said that the Opposition’s presence in the House is almost nil, I need suggestions because the government’ intention is that the Bill should not be passed without the Opposition,” Mahtab said, and asked MPs present to express their views.
BJP member P P Chaudhary said the Bill introduced by the government is very important. “We want all members, including the Opposition, to be present during a discussion on this Bill so that a meaningful debate can take place,” he said.
Criticising the Opposition for their absence, Chaudhary said: “They (Opposition members) should have been present. This is our main duty — to be present in the House and discuss such an important Bill. It is a matter of regret that they are not present. If they were in the House, the Bill would have been discussed.”
Nishikant Dubey, BJP member from Godda (Jharkhand), said Parliament is for debate. “The government’s intention is clear: the government wants to discuss all items and wants to take the Opposition into confidence. Therefore, I would like to urge you to accept the government’s suggestion and list the Bill for discussion for the next day…” he said.
Mahtab said, “So the sense of the House, I understand, is to defer this Bill to a different date.”
He subsequently adjourned Lok Sabha for the day.
The Bill seeks to provide for national measures to protect the Antarctic environment, as well as dependent and associated ecosystems, and to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.