Wrong depiction of the map of India could land the violators in jail with a maximum term of seven years and fine upto Rs 100 crore.
This measure has been envisaged by the government against the backdrop of instances where certain social networking sites showed J&K and Arunachal Pradesh as part of Pakistan and China respectively.
Recently, ‘Twitter’ had shown the geographical location of Kashmir in China and Jammu in Pakistan triggering protests from the Indian government after which it was corrected.
According to the draft ‘The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016’, it will be mandatory to take permission from a government authority before acquiring, disseminating, publishing or distributing any geospatial information 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.
“Whoever acquired 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 upto seven years,” according to the draft bill.
Geospatial Information means geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, 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 co-ordinate system and having attributes.
The government also proposed to set up a Security Vetting Authority to carry out security vetting of the Geospatial Information of India in a time bound manner and as per the regulations framed by an apex committee.
The Security Vetting Authority 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.
“Any person who wants to acquire, disseminate, publish or distribute any geospatial information of India, may make an application alongwith requisite fees to the Authority for security vetting of such geospatial information and licence thereof to acquire, disseminate, publish or distribute such Geospatial Information in any electronic or physical form,” the draft bill says.
The draft bill will ensure that online platforms like Google will have to apply for a license to run Google Maps or Google Earth in India.
According to the draft bill, the Security Vetting Authority, on receipt of an application and after examining the application in terms of the guidelines, shall either grant the licence or reject the application as the case may be.
If a licence is granted and the licensee fails to comply with the terms and conditions of this Act, rule, regulation or guidelines or order made thereunder, the Enforcement Authority may, after making such inquiry as may be thought fit, revoke the licence granted to such licensee.
The licensee shall be supplied with the security vetted Geospatial Information, by the Security Vetting Authority, within a period mutually agreed upon, based on the quantum and nature of the subject matter to be vetted, on best effort basis.
“Licensee shall not acquire, publish, disseminate or distribute any geospatial information of India through any media or by any means, unless such geospatial information are security-vetted by the Security Vetting Authority.
“Licensee shall display the insignia of the clearance of the Security Vetting Authority on the security vetted geospatial information by appropriate means such as water- marking or licence as relevant, while disseminating or distributing of such geospatial information,” the draft bill says.
Licensee will indemnify the Security Vetting Authority for any consequential loss or damages whatsoever that might be caused to any person or agency in India or abroad, due to the use or supply of security vetted geospatial information.
The Act will extend to the whole of India and also applies to citizens of India outside India, persons in the service of the government, persons on ships and aircrafts, registered in India, any person who commits an offence beyond India.
No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the central government or apex committee or Security Vetting Authority or Enforcement Authority on whom powers have been conferred pursuant to this Act, for anything which was done or purported to be done in good faith in pursuance of this Act or for any rule or regulation made under this Act, the draft says.