Question: What are the intention and objectives of Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016?
Answer: The intention and stated objectives of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 are indeed very noble and represent the reiteration of exercise of sovereign powers by India as a sovereign nation. Every sovereign nation is well entitled to ensure that its territorial boundaries and geospatial information are accurately depicted. However, the way and the manner in which the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 has been drafted in such wide terms and extremely broad ambit and amplitude , the same is likely to raise legal, policy and regulatory challenges as we go forward.
Question: What are the legal implications for businesses of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill?
Answer: The legal implications for businesses of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 are as follows:
- The way the term “geospatial information” has been drafted is very wide and would include all kinds of information that can be perceived and not merely map related information.
- There are no fair use exceptions for the use of geospatial information, envisaged under the proposed law.
- The way the language has been defined is vast enough so as to penalize legitimate and bonafide clicking of pictures from airplanes or using or dealing with any aspects pertaining to digital geospatial information or map information.
- Such a Bill if implemented in the current form, will prejudicially impact e-commerce and m-commerce market in a big way.
- The said Bill, if implemented, will bring across large number of onerous compliance requirements for companies located outside India.
- The said Bill proposes to bring in a licence raj in India, in the Internet era, in the context of geospatial information.
- It is not clear as to how in a globally networked world of today where the Internet has made geography history, can such license raj effectively be enforced.
- There is not much clarity on how the license under the Bill would be granted and what parameters would be considered while granting the license.
- The ramifications of the Bill are immense. Hence, businesses cannot use any kind of geospatial information in the physical or digital format till such time they get license. Even if a legal entity gets a license, that still does not enable them to grant sub-licenses.
- The businesses may also find it difficult to deal with map related information or location information which could have an impact, connection, association or nexus with geospatial information till such time they do not get appropriate license from the relevant authorities.
- The provisions under the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 are very vast and includes a massive range of fine from INR 1,00,000,00 to INR 1,00,00,00,000 and imprisonment for 7 years.
- The potentiality of misuse of the Bill lies in the manner it has been drafted. The potential Bill could become a tool for harassment and misuse as also abuse in case appropriate safeguards and checks and balances are not incorporated therein.
- The law provides for extra territorial jurisdiction and applicability in the context of geospatial information. While such a provision may look nice on the paper, the fact is that a provision is not going to be easily enforceable.
- The Bill could negatively and prejudicially impact m-commerce and e-commerce ecosystem in a big way and could definitely impact and slow down the growth of the mobile web in India.
- The said Bill makes the draft legislation a special Act. Given the fact that the electronic format and data and information in the electronic form is governed by the Indian Information Technology Act, 2000, which is itself a special legislation, there are chances of intrinsic potential conflict between both the legislations.
- Further, how the said legislation would be enforced is an important area which has not been considered in the draft legislation. In fact, the draft legislation does not even have intrinsic parameters for its effective enforcement.
- Further, the provisions need to be drafted keeping in mind the overall supremacy of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and its overall applicability.
- There is a need for bringing a far more holistic approach in looking at the provisions of the proposed Bill inasmuch as to ensure that while the stated objectives can be achieved, the legislation itself does not become a tool for potential harassment.
Question: Whether the Information Technology, 2000 prevails over the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016?
Answer: There is a tremendous overlap in the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 with the IT Act. The Information Technology Act, 2000 is India’s mother legislation to deal with data and information in the electronic form. Section 81 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 categorically says that the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 shall prevail over anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law for the time being in force. It is in this context, the provisions of Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, to the extent they are in conflict with the Information Technology Act, 2000, could present challenges as the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 has also been given a special law status. As such, there is a need for ensuring that the common minimum ground that has been established by the Information Technology Act, 2000 does not need to be prejudicially impacted by the provisions of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016. There is a need for ensuring that any conflict between the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, should be avoided.
Question: Given the fact that the stringent penalties for violation, could you please give your thought on how the punishment can be justified?
Answer: The proposed penalties are much steep. The law lacks intrinsic parameters of how the said punishment will be effectively enforced, since the minimum fine is INR 1,00,000,00 and the maximum fine is INR 1,00,00,00,000. Assuming that the said fine is granted, the draft Bill does not have parameters on how to effectively get the said fines realized. The entire issue of effective implementation of the law will take lot of thought processes and appropriate planning. It is also important to ensure that we need to learn from the experiences of legislative history of India. The legislations should not be toothless paper-tigers but must have effective deterrent legal regimes which can be effectively enforced in the ground reality.
I believe that the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 needs to have effective parameters for effectively enforcing and implementing its provisions in the real world.