The politics of making and using maps has taken a complex turn with the publication of the draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 by the Ministry of Home Affairs

The Bill is only in the draft stage and has been put up in public domain for suggestions

According to the draft, it will be mandatory to take permission from a government authority before acquiring, disseminating, publishing or distributing any geospatial information of India.

Security, sovereignty & integrity- a background

Primary objective of the bill is to ensure the protection of ‘security, sovereignty and integrity of India’. The concern around ‘security’ is not new when it comes to regulating cartographic activities. It is prominently addressed across the current set of policies and guidelines that govern mapping in India:

  1. The National Map Policy, 2005 (“NMP”) and associated guidelines issued by the Survey of India
  2. The Remote Sensing Data Policy, 2011 that regulates satellite-based mapping
  3. The Civil Aviation Requirement, 2012, which regulates mapping and photography using flights and drones

However, protection of ‘sovereignty and integrity’ does not find a mention in any of these map-related policies.

There have been several incidents where the government has taken steps (including the temporary blocking of service) against companies that have represented Indian national boundaries that are not in accordance with official maps. Examples- Google, The Economist, and Al Jazeera.

In the absence of such provisions in the existing map-related policies, the legal action against such depiction of Indian territory were pursued under:

  1. Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000
  2. The Official Secrets Act, 1923 (restricting the collection and sharing of information about ‘prohibited places’)
  3. The Customs Act, 1962 (prohibiting the export and import of certain maps)
  4. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act,1990


Precursor to the bill

In 2014, a petition was filed in the Madras High Court seeking a complete ban on the Google Earth and Bhuvan (run by ISRO) map applications on the ground that they were both providing information that could be used for planning acts of terror.

The trouble with Google re-opened earlier this year as the Pathankot air base was attacked. Promptly after the attack in January, a case was filed in the Delhi High Court alleging that the availability of sensitive information (from an internal security point-of-view) on Google Maps created security vulnerabilities. The court disposed of the case, claiming that it has learned from the Additional Solicitor General that ‘steps are in progress to regulate the publication of aerial/satellite geospatial data’. This could be considered as the indirect reference to the draft bill.

Also, certain social networking sites showed Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as part of Pakistan and China respectively

Features of the bill

#1. Geospatial information

According to the draft, it 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;

#2. Access denied!!!

Any addition or creation of anything that has to do with any geospatial information or location within the territory of India will need the permission of the government or, in this case, a Security Vetting Authority.

#3. Security Vetting Authority

It grants licenses to organisations/individuals who want to use geospatial data
It will check the content and data provided and make sure it is well within national policies, ‘with the sole objective of protecting national security, sovereignty, safety and integrity’.

#4. Violation & punishment

  • Illegal acquisition of geospatial information of India- Fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 100 crore and/ or imprisonment for a period up to seven years
  • Illegal dissemination, publication or distribution of geospatial information of India- 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
  • Use of geospatial information of India outside India- Fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 100 crore and/ or imprisonment for a period up to seven years



  • It will impact every person, every business which uses location as a major feature to function
  • App based businesses: Ola, Uber, Zomato, AirBnB and Oyo
  • Websites: Twitter, Facebook, Google
  • Print or online media: Reporting on natural disasters using maps, reporting on public transport effectiveness, map based visualizations for elections, spread of diseases etc
  • It will also affect Real estate businesses, NGOs, disaster management efforts etc

Impact on Government Schemes

Recently, Govt has been laying great stress on the use of geospatial technologies for rapid development. The flagship projects like AMRUT, SMART CITY, HOUSING FOR ALL, CLEAN GANGA, PMKSY and DIGITAL INDIA envisage the involvement of industry to take up much of the work. With this act in place there will have to be a licensing of these industries and the personnel working on these projects. This would adversely affect speedy implementation of the schemes and ease of doing business too.

Digital India:

  • Geospatial and GIS will be the software tools that will enable us to see things in a spatial perspective, giving insights which textual data cannot give
  • There is a need to represent certain information on a GIS platform, so that better decisions can be made by utilising the full demographic potential
  • India is making a conscious effort to introduce GIS in our e-Governance applications and Mission Mode projects in a big way

Skill India and Make in India:

  • Skill India seeks to impart practical skills to youth to enable them to become employable & Make in India seeks to turn job seekers into entrepreneurs who in turn can create jobs
  • In effect, we teach persons how to fish rather than giving them fish
  • With this Bill, what are the chances of youth learning geospatial skills and further how many budding entrepreneurs will dare to dream of opening a geospatial industry?

Fasal Bima Yojana:

  • Under this recent scheme, the assessment of land, crops, damages etc is to be done by using latest technologies like drones
  • This too involves processes such as mapping of specific locations/ fields


India does need a Geospatial Information Act, but it has to be an enabling and encouraging Act that makes for faster and better implementation of programmes, not a regressive and punitive Act as the proposed one.


Published with inputs from Swapnil

Any doubts?

  1. Profile photo of Shikha Jha Shikha Jha

    please update on this bill further..

  2. Profile photo of aniket brichhaliya aniket brichhaliya

    please proceed with this one.

    1. Profile photo of Root Root

      We will be taking this up soon.

  3. Profile photo of Gopalsana Thingnam Gopalsana Thingnam

    Please explain this part in detail…regards

Aadhaar must for web-access to Survey of India maps

  1. The Survey of India has set up a web portal called Nakshe that allows 3,000 of its 7,000 maps to be downloaded for free
  2. The only caveat is that one would require an Aadhaar number for such access
  3. The maps to be made available through the portal will make it easier for residents of villagers and panchayats to readily access information
  4. Currently, organisations and people who want specific maps need to fill forms and sometimes visit the SoI. Several times, Ministries themselves had to pay to get certain maps
  5. New model: SoI is also developing a so-called Geoid model of the country
  6. This would make measurements of topography by satellite — the modern method — compatible with the traditional ground-based measures


Important for prelims. Read about Survey of India in b2b. It is all the more important as SoI is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year.


The Survey of India:

  1. It is India’s central engineering agency in charge of mapping and surveying
  2. Headquartered in Dehradun
  3. Set up in 1767to help consolidate the territories of the British East India Company
  4. It is one of the oldest Engineering Departments of the Government of India
  5. It is the country’s oldest scientific organisation and official maker of maps
  6. The SoI maps —prepared for defence and civilian purposes — are considered a standard reference for the shape, extent and geographic features of the country
  7. The Survey of India’s distinguished history includes the handling of the mammoth Great Trigonometrical Survey under William Lambton and George Everest and the discovery of Mt. Everest
  8. Its members are from Survey of India Service cadre of Civil Services of India
  9. It is headed by the Surveyor General of India
  10. Vision: Survey of India will take a leadership role in providing user focused, cost effective, reliable and quality geospatial data, information and intelligence for meeting the needs of national security, sustainable national development, and new information markets
  11. Mission: Survey of India dedicates itself to the advancement of theory, practice, collection and applications of geospatial data, and promotes an active exchange of information, ideas, and technological innovations amongst the data producers and users who will get access to such data of highest possible resolution at an affordable cost in the near real-time environment

[pib] What is “nakshe”?

  1. A new web portal “nakshe” was launched by the Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, on the occasion of 250th anniversary of Survey of India (SoI)
  2. Topographic maps or Open Series Maps (OSM) containing natural and man-made geographical features including terrain or topography are prepared by the SoI since its inception in 1767 and is in conformity with the National Map Policy-2005
  3. These OSM maps have been made available for free download from “nakshe” web portal in pdf format on 1:50,000 scale through Aaadhar enabled user authentication process, in line with Digital India programme of the Government of India

Survey of India:

  1. Origin of the Survey of India is traced back to Year 1767
  2. It is the oldest scientific department in India and one of the oldest survey establishments in the world
  3. Foundation for the scientific survey and mapping of the country was laid with The Great Trignometric Survey (GTS) in 19th century on this day i.e. 10th April, 1802, by noted surveyors Col. Lambton and Sir George Everest
  4. SoI has surveyed and mapped each and every part of the country and these maps have played an invaluable role in the saga of India’s nation building and were pivotal in the foundation of almost all major developmental activities of modern India


Note the details for Prelims.


Geospatial Bill: India upset as Pak. moves UN

  1. Context: Recent draft of Geospatial Information Regulation bill made public by Govt
  2. Pakistan’s Concern: J&K is a disputed territory as per UNSC resolution & India can’t show J&K as a part of it
  3. India: J&K is an integral part of India & it is an internal matter so no one has right to interfere

Startups in Bengaluru fighting to ‘Save the Map’

  1. The Geospatial Information Regulation bill has created problem for small businesses
  2. License Raj: Many startups oppose this bill as they fear it could create a Licence Raj for Digital India
  3. The Bill seeks to criminalise all collectors and disseminators of geospatial data without prior vetting by the government
  4. This bill affects ventures like Latlong and MapUnity which create maps for apps
  5. Will also affect new age companies like food delivery, e-commerce, cab aggregators etc.
  6. Save the Map: Movement by open source data activist and professionals to oppose the bill

Home Ministry open to review of draft Geospatial Bill

  1. Context: Issue surrounding recent Draft Geospatial Bill, 2016
  2. Draft was 1st introduced in 2012 but Pathankot attack is the immediate trigger for re-introduction
  3. The draft bill has been uploaded on Home Ministry’s website for comments, suggestion from people
  4. Purpose: To stop wrongly depicting the map of India including international boundaries
  5. Also, it’s mandatory to obtain permission from a government authority before acquiring, disseminating, publishing or distributing any geospatial information of India

Rs.100-cr. fine proposed for wrong India map

  1. Context: Govt has proposed The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016
  2. Provisions: Wrong depiction of the map of India could land the violators in jail with a maximum term of seven years and fine up to Rs. 100 crore.
  3. It will be mandatory to take permission from a government authority before acquiring, disseminating, publishing or distributing any geospatial information of India
  4. The draft Bill will ensure that online platforms like Google will have to apply for a licence to run Google Maps or Google Earth in India
  5. Background: Certain social networking sites showed Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as part of Pakistan and China respectively

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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