International law through signing and ratification of treaties and conventions provides as the source of laws which ought to be followed while dealing with activities related to outer space explorations. India lacks a set of codified laws particularly dealing with outer space explorations and activities related to outer space. Thus, it is extremely important for the country to establish codified legislation dealing with the activities related to outer space, such legislation shall be tailor-made for India in all aspects, and shall be in consonance with the corpus of International conventions and treaties which India has signed and ratified.
International law, while dealing with outer space and related activities, primarily consists of five outer space treaties. United Nations constituted a committee on Peaceful Use of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS), in the year 1958. Initially, it was a provisional committee dealing with the matters related to outer space with only 20 member states. Eventually, it became a permanent committee. The committee now hosts 70 member states. The inception of this committee created a forum, which helped the member states to reach a common accord comparatively easy. Thus, the inception of this committee led to the adoption of the five treaties of from 1967 to 1979.
The five treaties are-
- Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in The Exploration and Use of Outer Space Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, 1967
- Agreement on the rescue of Astronauts and Return of objects launched into outer space, 1968
- The Convention on International Liability for Damage caused by Space Objects, 1972
- Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space,1975
- The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and other Celestial bodies, 1979
A) Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in The Exploration and Use of Outer Space Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, 1967
The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in The Exploration and Use of Outer Space Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, primarily dealt with the member states’ exploration and use of outer space, and the outer space included moon and other celestial bodies. This is also known as the Outer Space Treaty. This treaty was opened for signature in Moscow (Soviet Union), London (United Kingdom) and Washington D.C (United States), on January 27, 1967.
Following this agreement in January, the treaty came into force on October 10th 1967. As of today, 2017 June, 106 countries have signed and ratified this treaty, India being one of them and 24 other nations have signed the treaty but have not yet ratified it ( Ratification of a treaty means bringing the principles established in the treaty into force in the domestic laws of the country). The member states under this treaty are bound by the terms of this treaty and can explore outer space only for peaceful purposes and co-operation amongst the world. The activities carried out in outer space shall be done under the supervision of UN regulatory bodies and there shall be no use of any kind of weapons whatsoever including nuclear weapons.
B) Agreement on the rescue of Astronauts and Return of objects launched into outer space, 1968
The Agreement on the rescue of Astronauts and return of objects launched into outer space discussed and contemplated by the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) from 1962 till 1967. This is also known as the Rescue Agreement. The member states and UN authorities came to a consensus in 1967 and following this consensus and the UN General Assembly passed a resolution 2345(XXII) which brought the agreement into force in December 1968. The Agreement on rescue of Astronauts and Return of objects further elaborated on Article 5 and 8 of the Outer Space Treaty. Article 5 and Article 8 of the Outer Space Treaty stated that the member states shall ensure, provide and make all possible arrangements in order to assist and rescue astronauts in suffering irrespective of their country and assist them in returning to their launching state immediately. According to the Rescue Agreement, member states, upon the request of other member states shall provide for assistance in the recovery of such objects, which are outside of the territory of the launching state, from space and bring them back to earth. India has ratified the above- mentioned agreement.
C) The Convention on International Liability for Damage caused by Space Objects, 1972
The Convention on International liability for damage caused by Space Objects negotiated and contemplated from 1963 till 1972. In the year 1971, the United Nations General Assembly through resolution 2777(XXVI) accepted the convention and following this resolution, the convention was entered into force in September 1971. This Convention is also known as Liability Convention. India has ratified this convention. liability convention was based on Article 7 of the Outer Space Treaty. The liability Convention provides that, the launching state shall take complete responsibility and pay for damages in the case, any damage is caused to any other nation, any space object, the surface of the earth or any aircraft within the earth’s atmosphere or in space. Further, the convention provides for the procedures that need to be followed for the settlement of claims for damages.
D) Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, 1975
The Convention on Registration of Objects launched into outer space was negotiated after it was contemplated in 1962 till 1975. This convention is also known as the Registration Convention. The United Nation General Assembly in 1975 passed a General Assembly Resolution 3235 (XXIX), adopting the convention. On September 15, 1976, Registration Convention came into force. India has ratified this convention. The convention has been ratified by 37 nations and has been signed by 4 nations.
The need for the convention on Registration of objects launched into outer space was expressed after the promulgation of the Outer Space Treaty, The Liability Convention and the Rescue Agreement by the member states. The idea behind the formation of this convention was to mark the objects being sent into outer space so that they could be identified easily. This Convention has addressed the issues concerning state parties and their responsibilities while carrying out space-related projects and sending objects in outer space. The Registration Convention has extended the scope of the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into outer space, which had been recognised by the resolution 1721B (XVI) of December 1961.
E) The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and other Celestial bodies, 1979
The above-mentioned agreement is also known as the Moon Agreement. It was considered and negotiated by the United Nations Legal Subcommittee from1972 to 1979. The United Nations General Assembly in 1979 adopted the agreement elaborated by the United Nations Subcommittee vide resolution 34/68. After signing the Moon Agreement only 4 countries ratified the Agreement, it was only in 1984, six years after the agreement was formed. Austria ratified the agreement, which came into force in July 1984. The Moon Agreement is the least ratified space agreement. India has signed the agreement but has not yet ratified it. Belgium in 2004 became the latest addition to the list of nations which have ratified the agreement.
The Moon agreement reiterates and elaborates the principles of the Outer Space Treaty, which is related to Moon and other celestial bodies, stating that these bodies shall exclusively be used for peaceful purposes and that their environment shall not be harmed in any manner. The Moon Agreement makes it necessary for the member state to inform the United Nations regarding the location and purpose of any activity being carried out at Moon or any other Celestial Body. The Moon Agreement also provides that, any natural resources that may be extracted from Moon or any other celestial body shall be a common heritage of all mankind, and an international regime shall be constituted for exploitation of such resources, making those resources available to all mankind.
The Constitution of India and Space Laws
A) Article 51
Promotion of international peace and security The State shall endeavour to:
1) promote international peace and security;
2) maintain just and honourable relations between nations;
3) foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organised peoples with one another, and encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration .”
The Constitution of India through Article 51 directs the executive framework of the country to promote peace as its primary objective in the world, through implementing International treaty obligations in domestic legislation directly or indirectly. The Article also provides for maintaining honourable relations between nations and solving disputes through arbitration.
B) Article 253
Legislation for giving effect to international agreements:
“ Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, Parliament has the power to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other bodies .”
The Article provides that the legislature has the authority to make or amend an existing law in order to make them in consonance with any international treaty or convention which India is a part of. Thus, providing the legislature with the authority to construct national space laws which are in the interest of the country and are in consonance with the treaties and conventions which India is a part of.
C) Article 53: The executive Power of the Union:
“ The Executive power of the Union shall be vested in the President and shall be exercised by him directly or through officers subordinated to him in accordance with this Constitution .”
The Article provides that the President of India can exercise executive power in accordance with the Constitution. Further, the Article also provides that the President can delegate this authority to its subordinates, i.e., Vice- President, Governors of state to exercise such power on the behalf of the President.
The Constitution of India is competent in every aspect and can adopt international treaty obligations through the directions stated in Article 51, 53 and 253, the President of India, by exercising executive can enact such laws with respect to international conventions and treaties.
India is emerging in the space industry with increasing commercial and private participation. While taking a holistic view of the country’s legal regime as well as its advancements in the field of space technology, it can be articulated that India has complete and compatible legislative requirements that are required for the implementation of international obligations and formation of codified space and related procedural and structural laws.
The rapid changes in the global space industry and increasing competition from private and other state-funded agencies, particularly in Asia- Pacific region, can be regarded as a changing of an era, where the focal point of interest is shifting and space exploration has become a new frontier for all the developed nations in the world. In order to cope up with these significant changes in the world, India needs to establish codified procedural and structural laws, enabling an open and accessible private and commercial development in the field of space and technology.
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