[Burning Issue] Draft Space Activity Bill 2017

Why in News?

  1. Recently, India’s draft space activity bill, 2017 was unveiled
  2. It aims at promoting and regulating the space activities in India
  3. The legislation is expected to encourage both public and private players to participate in India’s space programme.

Why is there a need for a space law?

  1. Currently, space activities are regulated by policies like Satellite communication policy, 2000 and Remote Sensing Data Policy, 2011. But there is a need for the proper legal environment for orderly performance and growth of the space sector.
  2. Nations such as the USA, Russia, UK, etc. have their own space legislation. Even China and Japan are in the process of formulating their own domestic space legislation.
  3. Earlier, ISRO was the sole player in the space sector. However lately, there have been many start-ups mushrooming in this sector, which calls for a regulatory mechanism and legislation to govern their activities.
  4. Furthermore, the demand for Indian space products has been growing both in the country and outside the country. So it is necessary to include Indian industry and service providers in space activities under the technical guidance of the Department of Space (DOS) and the growth of the Indian space sector.
  5. A legislation is required as India is obligated to UN outer space treaties which require signatories to have a national legislation in place.

What are the key features of the bill?

  1. The provisions would be applicable to all citizens and also to those sectors which are engaged in space activity either inside or outside the country.
  2. It provides for the grant of a non-transferrable license to those people engaged in commercial space activity.
  3. It provides for the appropriate mechanisms for licensing, eligibility criteria and fees for the license.
  4. Union government will have to maintain a register of space objects that are launched or to be launched around the earth.
  5. It provides for technical support in order to facilitate commercial space activity.
  6. It also provides for regulatory procedures for conduct and operation of space activity.
  7. It provides for restrictions in sharing of details regarding the pricing of products created through space activity with any person or agency.
  8. It provides for punishment for persons involved in illegal commercial space activities with imprisonment up to 3 years or fine more than Rs 1 crore or both
  9. It also has provisions for the protection of IPR created through space activity.

Arguments favouring the bill

  1. Definition: The bill clearly defines space players, licenses, violations, objects, people, and geography. It is also proposed to define detailed guidelines in consultation with stakeholders and industry bodies.
  2. Promotion: The bill encourages non-governmental players to take the risk and invest in space activities in India. This will make India a commercial hub for space activities and generate jobs in the country.

Arguments against the bill

  1. Clarity: Experts have criticized the bill for its lack of clarity on the use of space objects.
  2. Regulation: It gives arbitrary power to the government for monitoring the research activities. This would scare away international investors from investing in the space sector of India.
  3. Liability: The bill made the government non-liable for any harm caused by the commercial activities by the non-governmental players in space even though the government gives clearance for their involvement in the space activities.

Way forward

The bill is a welcome step in promoting the space sector. But to enable competitive ecosystem in the space sector there is a need to conduct a review of international best practices in managing the space value chain and inducting them within the Act.

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