Submissions to the Ministry of Home Affairs on the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016

Reports by Vidhi Aid ยท June 9, 2016
Author(s): Debadityo Sinha, Dhvani Mehta and Yashaswini Mittal

Vidhi recently submitted comments to the Ministry of Home Affairs on the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016. The Bill places stringent restrictions on the acquisition, dissemination and publication of geospatial information.

We contend that the Bill places serious obstructions in the path of independent environmental research and informed, effective public participation in environmental decision-making. Geographic information systems freely available on online portals as well as information collected by ground truthing are valuable tools for environmental researchers and activists. Under the Bill, the use of this kind of information will require a prior licence from a Security Vetting Authority proposed to be constituted.

The right to access information and to participate in environmental decision-making are integral components of the right to environment upheld by the Supreme Court under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, and also affirmed by the High Courts, the National Green Tribunal and the Central Information Commission.

We also argue that the Bill places unreasonable restrictions on the right to freedom of speech and expression, protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. The provisions of the Bill are disproportionate to the objective they intend to serve i.e. the protection of India’s security interests. These interests are adequately protected by existing government policies on the use of geospatial information, all of which adopt nuanced and collaborative approaches to the sharing of such information.

We recommend that the Bill, in its current form, be withdrawn, or at the very least, that the use of geospatial information for the purposes of participation in environmental decision-making be exempted from its provisions.

Download the full submissions to the Ministry of Home Affairs on the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016

About Debadityo Sinha:

Debadityo is a Senior Resident Fellow in Vidhi Aid. At Vidhi, he is working on air pollution regulations and environmental clearance process in India. He graduated in 2009 with a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Zoology from the University of Delhi, and thereafter in 2012, completed M.Sc. (Tech.) in Environmental Science and Technology from Banaras Hindu University. Before joining Vidhi, Debadityo has worked with the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment as Program Officer and has also done independent projects on environment and wildlife protection in collaboration with WWF-India and Environment Equity and Justice Partnership. He is founder and trustee of Vindhyan Ecology and Natural History Foundation, Board Member of EKOenergy network and is a recipient of Duleep Matthai Nature Conservation Fellowship.

About Dhvani Mehta:

Dhvani is a Senior Resident Fellow in Vidhi Aid. She has supervised research projects on the functioning of the National Green Tribunal, on grievance redressal mechanisms at public health establishments, and on the withdrawal of medical treatment from terminally-ill patients. She has assisted the Indian Council of Medical Research with regulatory reform on clinical trials and has provided legal research and drafting assistance to the Ranjit Roy Chaudhury Expert Committee constituted to suggest reforms to the Medical Council of India. Dhvani has a D.Phil in Law from Magdalen College, University of Oxford. Her doctorate explores the idea of an environmental rule of law in the Indian context and analyses the role of the legislature, executive and judiciary in strengthening or weakening it. Dhvani also has an M.Phil and BCL from Oxford and a B.L.S; LL.B from Government Law College, University of Mumbai.

About Yashaswini Mittal: