7-year-jail, Rs 100 crore fine soon for showing PoK, Arunachal as disputed

Thursday, May 05, 2016

NEW DELHI: Depiction of a wrong map of India or showing Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) or Arunachal Pradesh as not a part of India on any online platform or physical documents could mean a stiff jail term of seven years along with an heavy fine of up to Rs One Hundred Crore, says a new law being proposed by the Narendra Modi government.

The Centre is planning to soon bring the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill by which such tough provisions will be brought and any person or institution acquiring and disseminating any geospatial imagery or data of any part of India through space or aerial platforms will have to first seek permission and license from a government authority. This could mean that online platforms like Google will have to apply for a license to run Google Maps or Google Earth in India. The government authority will run “sensitivity checks” on the imagery to protect India’s security and sovereignty.

The law is meant to regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security, sovereignty and integrity of India, as per a draft. Geospatial Information has been defined as any imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles or graphical or digital data depicting natural or man-made physical features, phenomenon or boundaries of the earth or any information including surveys, charts, maps and terrestrial photos, the law says.

Without permission of a Security Vetting Authority which will be duly set up by the government, it has been specified that no person shall, in any manner, make use of, disseminate, publish or distribute any geospatial information of India – either inside India or abroad, without a license. It has been specified that no person shall depict, disseminate, publish or distribute any wrong or false topographic information of India including international boundaries through internet platforms or online services or in any electronic or physical form. The penalties would be seven year jail and One Hundred crore fine.

The Act will however not apply to Indian government bodies. When the offender is a company, every person responsible for the conduct of business shall be liable to be proceeded against unless he proves that the contravention took place without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent such contravention.