New Delhi :
The Ministry of Home Affairs on 4 May, 2016 released a draft of “The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016” which has created a war of words between India and Pakistan. The draft states that it will be mandatory to take permission from a government authority or, in this case, a Security Vetting Authority, before acquiring, disseminating, publishing or distributing any geospatial information of India.
To this, Pakistan expressed "serious concerns" with regard to the depiction of Jammu & Kashmir in maps. However, the Indian government has resolutely rejected Pakistan’s objection to the draft bill, citing that Pakistan has no right to object to the India’s internal legislative matter. It said that it was open to addressing the issue bilaterally with Pakistan.
It is the first time that a Bill has drawn diplomatic opposition from a neighboring country.
Pakistan's foreign affairs ministry, in a statement said, letters have been sent to the United Nations Secretary General and the President of the Security Council expressing "serious concerns" over the Indian government's efforts to introduce the Geospatial bill in parliament. "In violation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, the official map of India has been depicting the disputed territory of Jammu & Kashmir as part of India, which is factually incorrect and legally untenable. Through the passage of this bill, the Indian government would penalize the individuals and organizations who depict Jammu & Kashmir as a disputed territory as per the UNSC resolutions," it said.
“Geospatial information”, according to the draft, means; geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles; graphical or digital data depicting natural or man-made physical features, phenomenon or boundaries of the earth; any information related thereto including surveys, charts, maps, terrestrial photos referenced to a co-ordinate system and having attributes.
Security Vetting Authority grants licenses to organizations/individuals who want to use geospatial data. It will check the content and data provided and ensure it is well within national policies, “with the sole objective of protecting national security, sovereignty, safety and integrity."
Every person or business which/who uses location as a key feature to function will be highly affected by this. Apart from the usual Google, this includes other apps like Uber, Ola, Zomato, AirBnB and Oyo. It also includes Facebook and Twitter which can track one’s location.
Besides, if anyone violates the law which means illegal acquisition of geospatial information of India will lead to fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 100 crore and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years. Moreover illegal dissemination, publication or distribution of geospatial information of India i.e., whoever disseminates, publishes or distributes any geospatial information of India in contravention of section 4, shall be punished with a fine ranging from Rs. 10 lakhs to Rs. 100 crore and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.
“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,” Vikas Swarup, Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
The Bill has garnered mixed reactions from people and industries for its proposed seven years in jail and fine of up to Rs 100 crore for non-compliance with guidelines. The draft, in its current form, could also imply that an individual clicking a picture carrying geospatial information would be liable to seek a license.