NEW DELHI: Depiction of a wrong map of India like showing Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) or the state of Arunachal Pradesh as not a part of India on any online or electronic platform or physical documents could mean a stiff jail term of seven years along with an heavy fine of up to Rs 100 Crore, as per a new law being proposed by the Narendra Modi government.
This provision is part of the draft of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill planned to be brought to Parliament soon by the Centre. BJP has been critical of western publications and US companies like Google for showing truncated maps of India with respect to J&K and Arunachal Pradesh. As per the new provision, wrong depiction of a map of India will be made a specific offence. “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,” says the provision in the draft bill on which the Home Ministry has asked for comments from the public. At present, such transgressions are dealt under Section 69A in The Information Technology Act in which access to such online links is blocked by the government. Last year, India banned AlJazeera channel for 5 days for showing a wrong map.
The draft bill now specifies penalties on the offenders for wrong depiction of the map of India. “Whoever depicts, disseminates, publishes or distributes any wrong or false topographic information of India including international boundaries shall be punished with a fine ranging from Rupees 10 lakh lac to Rupees 100 Crore and/or imprisonment for a period upto seven years,” the draft provision says. When the offender is a company, every person responsible for the conduct of business shall be liable to be proceeded against unless he proves that the contravention took place without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent such contravention. The Act will however not apply to Indian government bodies. In the past, foreign magazines carrying wrong maps of India were either defaced with blue stamps by the Customs Department or shredded.
The proposed law also brings tough provisions saying any person or institution acquiring and disseminating any geospatial imagery or data of any part of India through space or aerial platforms will have to first seek permission and license from a government authority.This could mean that online platforms like Google will have to apply for a license to run Google Maps or Google Earth in India. The authority will run “sensitivity checks” on the imagery to protect India’s security and sovereignty, as per the law. The penalty for acquires any geospatial information or disseminating it in India or outside India without a license to do so will also attract a punishment of seven year jail and fine up to Rs 100 crore, as per the law
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