What is Geospatial Information Regulation Bill?

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 1, 2022, 10:20

Geospatial information indicates information about any location or map-related data. It is place-based or locational information. The definition of geospatial information is so broad that it includes everything right from satellite imagery to atlases, books, magazines, car navigation systems, GPS-enabled devices like cameras, smartphones, and tablets sending/distributing data.

Geospatial Information Regulation Bill - Overview

To protect the safety, security, and sovereignty of India, the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India has drafted legislation called The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 to regulate data and high-resolution images collected from space or aerial platforms such as satellites, aircraft, airships, balloons, uncrewed aerial vehicles and shared through applications such as Google Earth and Bhuvan Portal of ISRO.

In simple terms, with this bill, any addition or creation of anything that has to do with any geospatial information - or location - within the territory of India will require prior permission of the government or a Security Vetting Authority, which shall consist of an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary to the government of India or above as chairman and two members one a technical expert and the other, a national security expert.

The government envisaged this measure against the backdrop of instances where specific social networking sites showed Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as part of Pakistan and China.

The draft bill affects millions of users from social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Snapchat that plot locations on the map to businesses such as Uber, Ola, and e-commerce delivery service providers who plot package locations on the maps. It also includes anyone with a GPS-enabled smartphone and users of smartphones and laptops with in-built GPS. For instance the use of a simple application that tracks your daily run such as Nike Run club or a web map you create to decide where you can open your next business venture.

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Whoever acquires any geospatial information of India in contravention of the above-mentioned regulations shall be punished with a fine ranging from Rupees one crore to Rupees one hundred crore or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.

Aspects of Geospatial Data

While the government is trying to regulate the use of the Indian map through the introduction of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill and ensure that the integrity, safety, security and sovereignty of India are unharmed, numerous legislations already exist under its umbrella applicable to different aspects of geospatial data: -

  • The National Map Policy 2005 (NMP-2005) defines the scope, distribution, and liberalized access of digital Survey of India (SOI) topographic maps to user groups without jeopardizing national security.
  • The Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR), 2012 details the procedure for issuing flight clearances for agencies undertaking aerial photography, geophysical surveys, cloud seeding, etc.
  • The Remote Sensing Data Policy (RSDP - 2001 and 2011) defines the distribution process of satellite images to a different category of users.
  • The National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy-2012 (NDSAP-2012) provides an enabling provision and platform for proactive and open access to the data generated through public funds available with various departments/organizations of the Government of India.

Scope of Geospatial Information Regulation Bill

While the scope and ambit of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill,2016 are vast, it has faced criticism from various experts and industry leaders since it essentially requires almost all industries to take a license for sending, distributing, and possessing information. It will consequently affect the small businesses and start-ups that will be required to adhere to the provisions in the Bill.

Whether the Indian government likes it or not, geospatial information is here to grow. Considered a public good and paid for by the taxpayer, data is a democratic right. Instead of restricting the production of and access to geospatial information, we strongly advocate openness in its creation, collection and dissemination.

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FAQs on Geospatial Information Regulation Bill

Q.1. Can you name the government authority authorised to regulate Geospatial Information Regulation Bill?

The Security Vetting Authority of India government authority authorises the regulation of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill.

Q.2. Why was the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill introduced?

Geospatial Information Regulation Bill was introduced to address the National Security objective and prevent instances where specific social networking sites showed Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as part of Pakistan and China.

Q.3. Who is affected if Geospatial Information Regulation Bill is passed by the legislature?

Geospatial Information Regulation Bill affects individuals, small companies, startups, MNC and in short, all the industries using geo-spatial data.

Q.4. Which department of the government of India has introduced the Geospatial information regulation bill 2016?

The Department of Science and Technology, Government of India has drafted the legislation of the government of India and has introduced the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016.