The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, in Indian Parliament which is up for public consultation, was published on the home ministry’s website earlier this month and lists penalties, including a prison term of up to seven years and a fine of one billion rupees.
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, the draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill says.
The new bill also states that a license will be needed to acquire, disseminate, publish or distribute maps, meaning services like Google Maps and Apple Maps could have to apply for permits.
The Bill, though is good for to hold strong nationalism but at the same time it is pertinent to mention here that the present Bill is not in consonance with the United Nations Resolutions which gives international patronage to Kashmir issue.
Thus, any move regarding the topography of Jammu and Kashmir is not tenable; as Kashmir issue is still unresolved and even distinct from other states of Indian Union. It needs to comply lot of procedures when to deal with topography of Jammu and Kashmir. The Bill goes in clear violation of freedom of expression and constitutional mandate like Article 370 of the Constitution of India. While incorporating Article 370 Gopalaswami Aynger also stated Kashmir as different from other states and said the issue is still unresolved. In addition to this; The Parliament cannot bypass UNSC Resolutions as India itself is a signatory to it.
Indeed, a quick look at case law on map-related disputes informs us about the motivations of the state in enacting this bill. A major controversy around sovereignty in the field of mapping has been about the depiction of international boundaries of India by Google. After several incidents of conflicts between Googles map makers and the Indian State regarding the depiction of Indias national boundary, the Survey of India filed a police complaint in 2014. As a result, Google presently shows different map tiles to users from India (according to the boundary specified by the Indian State) and different tiles to users from elsewhere. This geo-targeted solution to the depiction of international borders under dispute has been practiced by Google in the case of other countries too, most notably for Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ukraine and (independent) Crimea.
Through the passage of this Bill, the Indian government would penalize the individuals and organizations who depict Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory as per the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
Under the draft bill, anyone distributing a map the Indian government deems to be “wrong” could be liable for a billion-rupee fine and jail time.
So, at this juncture, I hope that both of our resistance and mainstream leaders of Jammu and Kashmir will also oppose this move, as I earlier emphasised that Kashmir issue is still unresolved, and should knock the doors of United Nation’s desk and such goes repugnant to UNSC resolutions.
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