Home Ministry open to review of draft Geospatial Bill

Even as the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) agreed to review a much-criticised draft Bill that proposes jail term of seven years and a fine up to Rs. 100 crore for wrongly depicting the map of India, officials said the Bill was first drafted in 2012 and the January 2 attack at the Pathankot airbase was the immediate trigger for reintroducing the Bill.

Three days after the draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 was uploaded on the Home Ministry’s website seeking comments from the public, the government on Monday indicated that it was open to review its contents and consider all suggestions that are to come in the next one month.

The draft Bill has come under scathing criticism on social media and other online platforms for its draconian features.

Uttarakhand DGP, M.A. Ganapathy, who was one of the officials involved in drafting the Bill during his stint in the MHA, told The Hindu : “Instead of getting hysterical, people should send valid and sane suggestions to oppose the draft Bill. This is at a draft stage and the idea was to invite comments.”

Another official involved in drafting the Bill said: “This Bill has been in the works since 2012. A committee of secretaries (CoS) had submitted a report, calling for a regulatory body to monitor the Internet giants like Google and Microsoft. How else do you regulate them, by begging?”

The official added that the investigations in the Pathankot airbase attack revealed that the terrorists who got into the airbase had precise information about its topography.

“The Pathankot airbase and other strategic locations are easily available on Google maps and it has become easier for terrorists to plan an attack. When Pathankot happened, we decided that this was the time to revisit the Bill,” said the official.

Permission mandatory

According to the draft Bill, it will be mandatory to obtain 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,” it states.

Attack on Pathankot airbase is the immediate trigger to reintroduce the Bill