India: Before ISRO Can Go Onward And Upward, India Needs A Good Space Law

Last Updated: 4 August 2016
Article by Ashok G.V.

One hopes that the needs of the future and the spirit of adventure will drive Indian space policy as opposed to – in the words of V from 'V for Vendetta' – the security of the familiar and the tranquillity of repetition.

One of the most challenging and interesting areas of law is the jurisprudence of space activities. Space, as a subject, a domain and a paradigm, fundamentally challenges collective human consensus worth several hundreds of years on subjects as elemental as sovereignty and ownership. What compounds the problem is that addressing space from a policy-making perspective involves not just domestic in-house legislative and executive exercises but also that such exercises must constantly engage, influence and ratify international regulations and processes. And as a space lawyer, one must constantly unlearn and let go of the limiting influences of conventional legal training while also retaining the fundamental enablers of conventional jurisprudence that makes a space-law perspective possible.

The US has adopted a new law that recognises mining of space bodies by private players. In many ways, this is an extension of a vision that dates back to the Commercial Space Launch Act, 1984, which enabled the private sector to assume operations in space and left NASA to focus on what it does best: research and development. Elon Musk's SpaceX and similar success stories are a byproduct of a robust relationship that the Americans built with the private sector to leverage opportunities in space. This is in stark contrast to the pre-infantile state of play for the private sector in India.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has done a phenomenal job of putting India on the roster of elite space faring nations. ISRO itself is a testament to perseverance and ingenuity, a fact borne out by the growth the organisation has achieved despite the limiting effects of international sanctions. Today, it deserves the independence that it enjoys – bolstered by the success of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). In fact, there would be no private sector in space in India at all without an ISRO that inspired the youth of this country to look skyward and beyond. So the context is simply this: how can the private sector now participate and enhance the greatness of ISRO?

Only pessimism for the private sector

While ISRO remains the central player in this scenario, the story remains incomplete until we understand that technology and space-based services have now taken centerstage in achieving better governance and quality of life on Earth. Take for example, the proposed Goods and Services Tax regime that aims to translate the entire tax collection, compliance and filing systems to an electronic and Internet-enabled system. When the system rolls out, India will need to ensure rapid percolation of the Internet into every nook and corner, an effort that can be made easier with high-throughput satellites, which are a hot trend elsewhere but not yet in India for unknown reasons. From healthcare to education, satellites will define India's growth in the Information Age. But the need for such space based services is growing faster than the pace at which our government seems able to sate it, thus necessitating a larger collaborative effort.

The regulatory framework for space activities is defined by a combination of policies, procedures and guidelines of the Government of India. The salient ones among them are:

  1. A policy framework for satellite communications in India (a SATCOM policy for short)
  2. Norms, guidelines and procedures concerning allowing Indian parties to provide services, including uplinking of TV signals with Indian satellites (SATCOM norms)
  3. Remote Sensing Data Policy, 2011
  4. The technology transfer policy of ISRO

What these policies and guidelines show is that between Antrix, ISRO and the Department of Space, the government appears to be an operator as well as a regulator, resulting in a virtual monopoly. This obvious conflict of interest was left unnoticed for a while as space wasn't an area of focus for the private sector. But now, with the emergence of private players, this is a concern. The discretion vested with the committees and bodies under the SATCOM norms don't come with deadlines prescribed for authorising the launch of satellite systems, nor is there an explicit policy framework for the exercise of such discretion – which potentially violates Article 14 of the Constitution. This has led to poor investor confidence and very little traction for a lot of space startups in the country (which do exist, by the way). And let's not even get started about spectrum and orbital-slot allocations, which will likely continue to be victims of domestic and international bureaucracy. In short, pessimism is the order of the day for the industry.

While that's the implication for the private sector, there's an identifiable implication for the nation as a whole. A lack of rationalisation in transponder leasing (a byproduct of the conflict of interest mentioned above); poor governance in the geographical information domain (or no governance, considering we've no known geographical information policy); the monopoly over remote sensing data generated by Indian satellites; and rigid tech. transfer policies pose not just financial losses to the government but also losses on the optimisation front – from the way education is delivered to the masses to better urban planning. And this is besides the fact that we could generate employment and retain talent in India if we can ensure a lucrative space for the private sector in this area. Last but not the least, NASA and the European Space Agency have both demonstrated that innovation is better achieved through a robust engagement with the private sector, which hopefully will provide much needed fodder for our collective thought processes on the subject.

A revolutionary road ahead

So how can a space legislation address these issues? To begin with, a legislation – in the form of a law enacted by the Parliament – enjoys a level of stability that a policy or guideline can never achieve. That by itself will demonstrate the fact that the country has the vision to back up its capacity. It will of course have to answer whether or not we are serious about giving opportunities to entrepreneurs who were provoked into dreaming about opportunities in space by our own space agency's achievements.

Should we intend to respond positively, then the legislation will have to make some radical changes. First, it must separate the regulatory functions of the Department of Space and ISRO, and vest the functions with an independent body. And this body must not only determine applications for launch of space assets but also the management of derivatives of the Indian space program and its initiatives. It must provoke the question of whether ISRO must focus exclusively on what its key strengths are – research and innovation – and leave the burden of day-to-day operations for the private sector to leverage. The need to address these topics is urgent as a legislation either enabling or disabling private participation of space activities will, if nothing else, provide closure to the young people dreaming about making a livelihood by taking India to infinity and beyond.

Finally, there are some ancillary issues: liability for space debris, national responsibilities for monitoring space activities arising out of its territory or its mandate, cross waivers in case of failures during launch of payloads into space, and so forth. These questions must be addressed parallel to the question of whether we must allow an industry to surface in the Indian space domain at all. Then again, we must also remember that as more of Earth's resources are depleted, and as we struggle to figure out how to address the problems of the future, the answer lies with a good space law. Falling behind in this race could threaten the country's prestige as well as our ability to safeguard the security of our descendants in a way that our current Weltanschauung cannot fathom. As our Parliament enters into its next session, one hopes that the needs of the future and the spirit of adventure will drive space policy as opposed to – in the words of V from V for Vendetta – the security of the familiar and the tranquillity of repetition.

Originally published by The Wire India.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Khurana and Khurana
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Khurana and Khurana
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions