Mains 2016 Initiative

Mains 2016: Draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016: Provisions and Criticisms


Draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016

ContextMinistry of Home Affairs in May this year released a draft of “The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016.”
It basically aims to regularize critical information on Maps services that affect “the security, sovereignty and integrity” of the country.
Cold response from MNCs like Google to India’s security concerns is seen as a prime reason for the proposed legislation.
The government is said to have undertaken this move after social networking sites showed J&K to be a part of Pakistan and Arunachal Pradesh as a part of China


  • It will be mandatory to take permission from the Security Vetting Authority before acquiring, disseminating, publishing or distributing any geo-spatial information of India.
  • Wrong depiction of the map of India by anyone could land the violators in jail with a maximum term of seven years and impose a fine up to Rs 100 crore.
  • Security venting 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.
  • It seeks to restrict the use of India’s geospatial data within India and it also pertains to any
    entity that uses this data outside India.
  • Violating the terms and conditions of the license mentioned thereof, punishable with a
    fine and/or suspension or revocation of the license and/or imprisonment.

Scope of the bill

  • The bill will not only affect companies like Google who have mapping tools like Google Maps, but also bring into its ambit other companies using maps for professional purposes like :-
  • Taxi-hailing services Ola, Uber (plot location on map);
  • Travel companies (map out properties offer mapped guides)
  • WhatsApp (allows users to share location with friends);
  • E-commerce delivery service providers (plot packages on a map) and many others.
  • It also includes anyone with a GPS-enabled smartphone as well as users of smartphones and laptops with inbuilt GPS.

India-Pakistan angle

Pakistan raised objections at UN?

Pakistan has raised it’s concerns with UN stating that India’s official map, which is mentioned in the Bill, shows J&K to be a part of India, which is ‘factually incorrect’ and legally untenable.
The letter calls upon the UN to uphold UNSC resolutions and urge India to stop such acts which are in violation of international law.

India’s response

India, in its response, stated that the issue was entirely internal and the nation had no business seeking UN’s help.
The government has stated further that 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.

Criticisms of bill

  • Experts have slammed the proposed bill saying it will bring back days of license Raj and create hurdles in business and technological development for companies.
  • There are already laws in place that prevent the use of geospatial information to undermine national security, like Official Secrets Act, 1923.
  • Section 5 of the OSA contains multiple provisions that penalize the possession and communication of maps that undermine “national security.”
  • Hence it goes against the policy of the government to reduce the number of laws in place to reduce the bureaucratic hurdles.
  • The definition of “geo-spatial information” will include all geo-referenced information, and data, that is produced by everyday users as an integral part of various everyday uses of digital technologies.
  • Bill effectively makes it illegal to acquire and maintain ownership of geospatial information that has not been subjected to security vetting.
  • Even ordinary users, who are unknowingly looking at maps that contain sensitive geospatial information, are committing an illegal act under the draft bill.
  • Even depictions of India for purposes of speculative fiction would be penalised under this proposed bill unless they depict the official borders.
  • Given the lack of a reusable version of maps of India, including of India’s official boundary as recognized by the Survey of India, it becomes impossible for people to accurately depict the boundary of India.
  • There are a number of sections in the draft bill which have negative implications for the rights of all users and potentially impinge on the constitutional rights of Indian citizens.

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