"Should we fire up this bad boy"- Television's Homi Bhabha to Television's Vikram Sarabhai at India's first ever rocket launch (Rocket Boys, 2022)

Back in the 60s, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai – the pioneer of India's space program, argued against Indians staying out of space. While India is a developing nation, he believed that if we are to play a role in the community of nations, then we must apply advanced technologies to real-world problems. This sentiment resonates till date – as India fires up its much-awaited space policy.

In this edition, we're discussing the new space policy, the government's attempt to 'fake' check content, and bite sized stories on AI, digital trade, and age-gating cinema.

India's new frontier – space

India's Space Policy 2023 has opened the sector to Indian private entities. This will help fulfil the increased demand for satellite bandwidth, launch vehicles and services, downstream applications like earth observation, remote sensing, and even manufacturing small satellites. Till now, the private sector largely acted as a sub-contractor to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) – which ran India's space program from start to finish.

The what:Now, private players are allowed to conduct end-to-end space-based activities such as satcom, satellite launches, remote sensing and satellite navigation, among others. The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center or IN-SPACe can also allow private players to undertake any other space activities in the future. Further, the policy also allows private players to obtain foreign orbital resources (this includes 'orbital resources' like geostationary or non-geostationary orbit slots and associated spectrum acquired by a country other than India) through international administrations such as the 'International Telecommunication Union'. Earlier this was possible only through the Indian Department of Telecommunications.

The who:The policy specifies roles of different government bodies in the space sector. This includes the Department of Space (implement the goals of the policy), ISRO (transition out of manufacturing and foray into handholding private entities and R&D), NewSpace India Limited (commercialize space-tech), and IN-SPACe ('single window' agency for authorizing space activities undertaken by private players).

The path ahead:The policy sets out a forward-looking vision for the space sector. It will also support domestic policies like 'Make in India' and the 'Digital India' mission and will increase India's contribution to the global space economy. However, regulatory clarity around FDI, licences and spectrum are still needed to execute India's space goals. Read Vijayant's analysis of the policy for Money Control and an Ikigai summary of the policy.

Is your social media post about the government fact or cap? – the government wants to check

A new body under the IT rules – that is not the GAC: Remember the government's proposed amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT rules) to fact-check you through the Press Information Bureau as the referee of truth? After heavy backlash on the proposal, the government has now updated the rules to allow a 'credible' fact-checking body appointed by it to identify and flag online content concerning the 'business of the central government'. And intermediaries (like Facebook and Twitter)will be expected to take down such flagged content. The government has assured that this fact-checking body will not be notified before 05 July.

What's the issue: Comedian Kunal Kamra has sought a stay on the amendments at the Bombay High Court arguing that they're arbitrary, unconstitutional, and place unreasonable restrictions on free speech. Meanwhile, the IT ministry said that the role of the fact-checking body is restricted to identifying only 'fake or false or misleading information' relating to the business of the central government. It also brought out the negative impact of fake news on electoral democracy and economy. Notably, falsity by itself is not a constitutionally recognized restriction to free speech. The Court noted that despite the government's assurances, adequate protection has not been provided under the amendments – especially to content criticizing the government through parody, satire or artistic impressions.

As it stands: Hearing Kamra's plea, the Court allowed him to make changes to his petition to also challenge the government's competence to bring in these amendments. The Court has asked the government to file a complete response to Kamra's petition including the question on competence. This case will be heard next on 08 June.

Addendum: These amendments were clubbed with the online gaming amendments to the IT rules. Here is an Ikigai explainer of the online gaming amendments and check out our newsletter in collaboration with AIGF for more online gaming updates.


  1. Artificial intelligence regulations: Few days back, IT minister, Mr. Ashwini Vaishnaw said that India doesn't plan to bring a new law to regulate AI – for now. This is because India plans to leverage AI to deliver citizen-centric services (remember the ChatGPT x Digital Bhashini collaboration?) and it believes that strict regulations at this stage might curb innovation. However, several central and state government bodies such as the Telecommunication Engineering Centre are working towards crafting standards for AI. In fact, the upcoming Digital India Act may also deal with emerging tech like AI. Regulators on the other side of the globe have viewed developments around AI – especially ChatGPT – with caution. Italy resuscitated ChatGPT after a brief ban, as OpenAI assured it has 'addressed or clarified' issues raised by data protection regulators. With several European regulators including the French, German and Irish, investigating ChatGPT closely – the European Data Protection Board has set up a task force to coordinate investigations and enforcement. The US too is reportedly investigating AI regulation and ChatGPT. Read Sreenidhi and Pallavi's piece on generative AI from a privacy lens.

  2. Digital trade: Recently, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled against India on the import duties it imposes on some information and communication technology products, saying that it violated global trading rules. But India doesn't agree and will appeal this decision. From the Indian government's point of view, this was done to check sub-standard imports, promote local industries, and keep a check on the re-routing of cheap imports from other countries. This also comes in the background of India's customs moratorium saga at the WTO. WTO members have agreed not to impose customs duties on 'electronic transmissions' (which includes anything from online shopping to music streaming to emails to online games). Last year, after multiple rounds of back and forth, India agreed to extend this moratorium. Previously, India and South Africa, argued that imposing such customs duties would help developing nations gain millions of dollars' worth of lost tax revenue.

  3. Cinema and age: The Cabinet approved the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023. Under this, the government has the power to block websites sharing pirated copies of films (no more 'extra-legal' ways of consuming content!). It also introduces stricter age-based categories for content. The existing U/A categories will be further subdivided into three categories: (UA 7+), (UA 13+) and (UA 16+). This will be recommendatory in nature. However, the industry feels that the higher and stricter age classification will affect the audience base, which in turn will affect the sale value of the film for producers. In other news, HBO shows like Succession and Game of Thrones left Disney + Hotstar, and found their new home on Jio Cinemas. Jio has also bagged the sweet IPL deal.

  4. Bills check: The next session of the Parliament (July/August) is likely to see the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill come to life. The Parliament may also see the Telecom Bill which was released around Diwali last year. While reports suggest that both the bills have been updated on the basis of stakeholder inputs– it is yet to be seen what has stayed and what has changed. Read our summary of the Data Bill and Telecom Bill.

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