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

Reports by Vidhi Aid · 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We recommend that the Bill, in its current form, be withdrawn, or at the very least, that the use of geospatial information for the purposes of participation in environmental decision-making be exempted from its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 the Sanctuary Wildlife Service award 2019.

About Dhvani Mehta:

Dr. Dhvani Mehta {B.L.S. LL.B. (University of Mumbai); BCL, D.Phil (Oxon)} is a Senior Resident Fellow and Team Lead of the Vidhi Aid initiative, where she works on environmental and health regulation, medical ethics and the right to education. She has worked specifically on research projects on environmental clearances, the National Green Tribunal, organ transplant laws, end of life care, and pharmaceutical and medical device regulation. She has appeared in the Supreme Court of India in petitions filed by Vidhi on advance medical directives and discrimination against persons affected by leprosy. She has authored chapters on the implementation of environmental judgments and healthcare corruption in India. Dhvani read for a doctoral degree at the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, where she was Chairperson of Oxford Pro Bono Publico and an editor of the Oxford Human Rights Hub blog. Her doctoral thesis explores the idea of an environmental rule of law in India and was cited by the Supreme Court of India.

About Yashaswini Mittal: