Google is in controversy in India once more. This time it is in trouble for encouraging Indians to map their neighbourhoods and send their maps so that they can be uploaded in the search engine’s sites. This was part and parcel of the initiative titled Mapathon 2013 recently launched by Google in India.
Google clearly failed to comply with Indian laws especially the cyber law due diligence in India. Google’s case also falls under the Internet intermediary liability in India. The past legislative history of India has indicated that cyber litigations against foreign websites would increase in India. And this is exactly what is happening as on date.
Recently clarification on the information technology (intermediary guidelines) rules, 2011 under section 79 of the information technology act, 2000 were given by the department of electronics and information technology. Although the Internet intermediary liability in India has been clarified but doubts and problems still persist. This is the reason why many companies have taken Indian cyber law for granted that is also otherwise a fit case for repeal.
World over publishing of maps and geographical surveys are generally undertaken by the respective government of that nation. For instance, the Survey of India publishes maps of India. These maps are categorised as unrestricted and restricted maps. The unrestricted category maps can be obtained after payment from several geo-spatial data centers in India. The restricted category maps require due approval from government authorities. Many other rules govern the sale and use of Survey of India maps. Only an Indian citizen may purchase topographic maps and these may not be exported from India for any reason.
Now Google has abetted Indians to commit many offences and Google is also a part of all these offences. According to Survey of India the Mapathon 2013 activity is likely to jeopardise national security interest and violates the National Map Policy. Citizens of the country, who are ignorant of the legal consequences, are likely to violate the law of the land. The Survey of India has filed a complaint at the RK Puram police station on March 25, 2013. The police have initiated an inquiry based upon such complaint.
Survey of India maintains that it is alone entitled to undertake “restricted” category surveying and mapping and no other government/private organisations or any individual are authorised to do so.
As per the National Map Policy, 2005, the responsibility for producing, maintaining and disseminating the topographic map database of the whole country, which is the foundation of all spatial data vests with the Survey of India.
In fact, the ministry of defence has identified and prepared a list of civil and military vital areas (VAs)/vital points (VPs) in consultation with the ministry of home affairs, which is regularly updated. Naturally, these VAs/VPs cannot be shown in the map/data published in public domain as that may compromise the national security of India. As Google has clearly mentioned that the concerned individuals would alone be responsible for submission and the consequences of posting or publishing the contents.
Thus Google is hinting that the concerned person must comply with all the laws of the land and in case of breach of any Indian law(s), Google would not be held responsible. However, Google is wrong in this assumption as for any and all criminal offences, Google would be equally responsible. This is more so for the offences of abetting and having a common intention element.
Indian government must seriously consider this episode and take appropriate action against the guilty person and company.