The web mapping services like Google Maps, Apple Maps and Here Maps will be required to get a license from the government soon to continue their operations in India. The government has prepared a bill to check the production and distribution of inaccurate or wrong maps of India.
The new bill, Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, recommends a strong action against those who wrongly depict India's map, for instance, not showing Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir or Arunachal Pradesh as part of India.
"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,” according to the draft.
"Whoever acquires any geospatial information of India in contravention of the law shall be punished with a fine ranging from Rs 1 crore to Rs 100 crore and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years," it adds.
An apex committed formed by the Centre, Security Vetting Authority, would provide clearance to companies that provide maps and navigation services after carrying out due security and accuracy checks. Once they are granted permission, companies are bound by certain guidelines and will be held liable for any violations with punitive actions, including fine up to Rs 100 crore and seven years in prison.
“Geospatial Information” means geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircraft, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles, including value addition; or graphical or digital data 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.
The government has invited comments and suggestions from the public over its new draft and is likely to submit the bill in the Parliament during the next session. The Union cabinet, meanwhile, is expected to meet over the bill for its clearance soon.
“Every person who has already acquired any geospatial imagery or data of any part of India either through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircraft, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles or terrestrial vehicles or any other manner including value addition prior to coming of this Act into effect, shall within one year from the commencement of this Act, make an application along with requisite fees to the Security Vetting Authority for retaining such geospatial information and grant of licence thereof,” states the draft.
The Security Vetting Authority, meanwhile, will have three months to either grant or reject the license to companies after examining their applications.
The new law makes it mandatory even for companies outside the country to secure the necessary permission to offer geopolitical information of India.
In the past, there have been several instances of wrongful mapping of Indian boundaries and territories on online platforms and international news outlets. The government’s new bill aims to put an end to it by bringing the private technology companies under its ambit.