7 year jail and Rs 100 cr fine for acquiring geospatial imagery illegally: Draft Law

People and entities acquiring geospatial imagery of India without permission may end up paying a fine of up to Rs 100 crore besides a seven-year jail term, according to a draft legislation.

The draft ‘The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016’ seeks to “regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security, sovereignty and integrity” of the country.

Once it becomes law, applications like ‘Google Maps’ will find it tough for offering enhanced imagery of sensitive locations without prior security clearance. There have concerns in the security establishment about such applications providing such information without any hindrance.

The Union Home Ministry has now sought comments from public on the draft by next month, a senior official said.

According to the draft, “no person shall acquire geospatial imagery or data including value addition of any part of India either through any space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles or terrestrial vehicles, or any other means whatsoever” without “general or special permission” of the Security Vetting Authority.

For this offence, the punishment is fine ranging from Rs one crore to Rs 100 crore and/or imprisonment for a period up to 7 years.

Similarly, no one is allowed to “disseminate or allow visualisation” of any geospatial information “either through internet platforms or online services, or publish or distribute” any such information in electronic or physical form.

Any person who has already acquired any geospatial imagery prior to the enactment of the legislation should approach Security Vetting Authority for retaining such information and grant of licence.

The draft also seeks to punish those who “depict, disseminate, publish or distribute any wrong or false” topographic information of India, including international boundaries, through internet platforms or online services. The fine ranges from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 100 crore while imprisonment could be upto seven years.

If a violation is committed by a company, the draft said, every person who, at the time the contravention was committed, was in charge of the company will be be treated as guilty.

Geospatial information is geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, UAVs depicting natural or man-made physical features, phenomenon or boundaries of the earth or any information related thereto including surveys, charts, maps, terrestrial photos referenced to a co-ordinate system and having attributes.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 5, 2016)

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