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

The Bill, introduced by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, seeks to ban funding of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and gives the Centre the power to freeze, seize or attach financial assets of persons involved in such activities.

The Bill, passed by Lok Sabha in the previous session, was passed by a voice vote in the Upper House, a move challenged by several Opposition MPs, who alleged that it had been passed even as the House remained disrupted.

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

CPI’s Elamaram Kareem and DMK’s Tiruchi Siva challenged the Chair for not allowing a division when the WMD Bill was passed. Kalita said he “could not hear” the request amid the din of slogans.

“I repeatedly asked for division,” Kareem said. “When I was asking for division, how could you pass the Bill?”

Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said while the Chair could allow passing of a Bill when the House was not in order, it refused to admit points of order under similar circumstances.

Hitting back, Leader of the House Piyush Goyal said, “The Leader of Opposition is casting aspersions on the Chair…None of our members was responsible for disorder. Members of the Opposition are creating disorder and then raising a point of order…”

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