Govt policies & Interventions

iasparliament
February 09, 2018
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What is the need for a Space Activities bill, 2017 in India? Discuss the significant provisions of the bill and its limitations. (200 words)

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KEY POINTS

Need for a space bill

·         Over a period, with the logical evolution of space activities in India, the demands for space systems, applications and services for national needs and beyond have been rapidly growing.

·         ISRO is mainly a R&D-focused organisation; it has created the technological foundation for rockets, satellites and ground usage.

·         However, to realise such a large number of space systems, private partnerships have been sought.

·         This scenario encourages the participation of Indian industry and service providers at much higher levels in all round space activities.

·         Commercial opportunities in space activities and services, nationally and internationally demand higher order of participations by private sector agencies.

·         This situation demands for a necessary legal environment for orderly performance and growth of space sector.

·         Thus there is a need for national space legislation for supporting the overall growth of the space activities in India.

·         This would encourage enhanced participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India, in compliance with international treaty obligations, which is becoming very relevant today.

Important provisions and its limitations

·         Its main objective seems to be the governance of ‘Commercial Space Activities’.

·         Definition - The definition of “Space activity” affects the scope of the entities that will come under the ambit of the Bill.

·         The use of ‘space object’ pulls every space-based application into its ambit.

·         This even includes every piece of hardware that carries a GPS/GNSS receiver (e.g. smartphones, tablets, child trackers, etc.).

·         So nobody in the industry will benefit in case licenses are needed for them to even use a GPS/GNSS chip tomorrow in their product.

·         Licensing – A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity.

·         The licensing requirement stated within the Bill makes it harder for entrepreneurs to kick-off their products/services.

·         Blanket licensing requirements at the beginning of the tunnel for startups and SMEs will make it harder for them to even start their development work.

·         Therefore, licensing may be placed as a requirement just before the release of the product/service into the market or at the time of its export.

·         Assigning a nodal body – The Bill has not specified any department or body within the Government of India to take ownership of regulating space activities.

·         Since ISRO is managed by the DoS, an independent body should be created or nominated to administer space activities.

·         This is to ensure no conflict of interest arises between state and non-governmental/private actors.

·         Dealing with liability – Liabilities are very different for upstream activities – such as spacecraft operations and launch/in-orbit operations – against the use of space-based products/services on the ground, such as data security for remote sensing products, communication handsets, etc.

·         Penalties – The draft Bill provides for penalties in case of:

a)     unauthorised commercial space activity

b)     furnishing false information or documents

c)      causing environmental damage

d)     entry into prohibited areas

e)     disclosure of restricted information

·         Pollution to the environment of outer space including celestial bodies needs to be defined well.

·         It is not clear if this is in line with the space debris ‘code of conduct’, according to the Inter-Agency Debris Mitigation Committee guidelines, or other best practices in handling interplanetary missions.

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