Geospatial Bill: India Rejects Pakistan’s Move

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The discussion around the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, turned into a diplomatic war of words when India “firmly” rejected Pakistan’s objections to the draft Bill, saying Islamabad does not have any right to object to an internal “legislative matter” of India.

The proposed bill is an entirely internal legislative matter of India, since the whole of the State of J&K is an integral part of India. Pakistan or any other party has no locus standi in the matter, according to Ministry of External Affairs, India.

The draft Geospatial Information Bill plans to bring in a set of legally binding regulations regarding the geospatial information of India which may include provisions to penalise inaccurate depiction of India in maps. .

Pakistan wrote to the UN Secretary General raising “serious concerns” over the draft Bill.

About the Bill:

The Ministry of Home Affairs on May 4, 2016 released a draft of “The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016.”

According to the draft, it will be mandatory to take permission from a government authority before acquiring, disseminating, publishing or distributing any geospatial information of India.

Even though the Bill is only in the draft stage and has been opened up for suggestions, it is important to understand its salient features:

“Geospatial information” meaning: Geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles.

Graphical or digital data depicting natural or man-made physical features, phenomenon or boundaries of the earth.

Any information related thereto including surveys, charts, maps, terrestrial photos referenced to a co-ordinate system and having attributes.

Main Provisions of the bill:

In simple terms, any addition or creation of anything that has to do with any geospatial information – or location – within the territory of India will need the permission of the government or, in this case, a Security Vetting Authority.

Security Vetting Authority grants licenses to organisations/individuals who want to use geospatial data. It will check the content and data provided and make sure it is well within national policies, “with the sole objective of protecting national security, sovereignty, safety and integrity”

Who will get impacted by this Bill: Every person, every business which uses location as a major feature to function. Apart from the usual Google, this includes other apps like Ola, Uber, Zomato, AirBnB and Oyo. It also includes Twitter and Facebook which can track your location. Datameet, an online community of data scientists, have put together a complete list here.

What happens if someone violate this law: Illegal acquisition of geospatial information of India – Fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 100 crore and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.

Illegal dissemination, publication or distribution of geospatial information of India – Whoever disseminates, publishes or distributesany geospatial information of India in contravention of section 4, shall be punished with a fine ranging from 10 lakhs to Rs. 100 crore and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.

Use of geospatial information of India outside India – Fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 100 croreand/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.

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