Producing parts of India as the territory of China or Pakistan online could now land you a jail term of up to seven years and a fine of up to Rs 100 crore($15 million).
The move is part of the ‘Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016’, and comes after recent occurrences where social networking sites showed Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as part of China and Pakistan, respectively.
If the Bill becomes a legislation, online platforms like Google will have to apply for a license to run Google Earth and Google Maps in India.
Whoever acquired any geospatial information of India in violation of the law shall be punished with a fine ranging from Rs 1 crore to Rs 100 crore and/ or imprisonment for a period term up to 7 years,” according to the draft bill
According to the draft Bill, no person shall depict, disseminate, publish,issue and distribute any wrong or false topographic information of India, including international boundaries, through online services or internet platforms, or in any electronic or physical form.
Of course, if China and Pakistan, which also are sensitive about their borders, started prosecuting under similar laws, it would be impossible to make a map of the region including international political borders without running afoul of any of the nations’ laws.
The government of India will set up a panel to vet maps made using geospatial methods, which includes images taken from aircraft, satellites, hot air balloons or any other kind of aerial or space technology. The panel will comprise a chairperson at the rank of a joint secretary and 2 members a technical expert and a security adviser.
The Survey of India organization, which in 2014 led the charge against Google, had maintained that it had the “sole responsibility for maintaining, producing and disseminating the topographic map database” of India. While the proposed geospatial bill has wisely veered away from that logic, it is unclear whether a licensing regime is the best option for securing national security concerns. For instance, a clear distinction could have been drawn between companies that make money off India’s geospatial data like Google and entities such as OpenStreetMaps which do not.