India’s  Geospatial Data Guidelines

The new set of guidelines that have liberalised geospatial data is a bold move and path-breaking step and would open up vistas in diverse sectors” – K Sivan, Secretary Department of Space and Chairman Space Commission 

What is Geospatial Data?

Geospatial data is information that represents objects, events, or other features with a location on or near the surface of the earth. Geospatial data typically combines location information (usually coordinates on the earth) and attribute information (the characteristics of the object, event, or phenomena concerned) with temporal information (the time or life span at which the location and attributes exist). The location provided may be static in the short term (for example, the location of a piece of equipment, an earthquake event, children living in poverty) or dynamic (for example, a moving vehicle or pedestrian, the spread of an infectious disease).[1]

Geospatial information is widely used by various departments for example – weather forecasts or is used as a navigation tool by people to track the location of a person, place or object. However, it is not limited to just that. Tracking live delivery of food products on Swiggy or Zomato, or the live location on WhatsApp or Ola are also made possible due to the geospatial data and geospatial data services.[2]

The list of industries where geospatial technology is required extends from ecology, tourism, marine sciences, healthcare, agriculture, forestry to defence, law enforcement, logistics and transportation.[3]

Maps and Geospatial Data in India–Regime Liberalized;-

On February 15, 2021, the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India (“DST”) issued “Guidelines for acquiring and producing geospatial data and geospatial data services including Maps” (“Guidelines”)[4]. Which cover all geospatial data, maps, and other products and services provided by government agencies, people, and businesses. The Government has not only recognised the critical significance of geospatial data / maps in the digital economy as well as traditional sectors, but has also greatly liberalised the previous licencing regime as a result of these Guidelines[5].

The Government of India recognises that having access to a complete, highly accurate, granular, and constantly updated representation of geospatial data will benefit a wide range of industries, spur innovation, and improve the country’s disaster preparation. What is freely available elsewhere does not need to be restricted in India, hence formerly prohibited geospatial data will now be freely available in India[6].

  • “The Guidelines have liberalized the collection, use and dissemination of Geospatial Data and Maps, and removed all requirements of licenses, permissions and clearances except for certain limited categories.
  • Exporting Geospatial Data and Maps that are within the required threshold values is not restricted.
  • Compliance with the Guidelines will be through self-certification.
  • Foreign businesses, including foreign-owned and controlled Indian companies, are forbidden from collecting and controlling certain types of data and maps, but can licence them from Indian entities[7]”.

Classification of Geospatial Data

“The Guidelines classify Geospatial Data on the basis of certain threshold values as follows:

  • On-site spatial accuracy: one meter for horizontal or planimetry and three meters for vertical or elevation.
  • Gravity anomaly: 1 milli-gal.
  • Vertical accuracy of bathymetric data in territorial waters: 10 meters for up to 500 meters from the shore-line and 100 meters beyond that.

As detailed later, there are certain restrictions on Restricted Entities for processing Geospatial Data finer than these threshold values[8]”.

Present policy on geospatial data and why has the government decided to deregulate the geospatial policy

The National Map Policy, 2005 was announced by the Central Government on May 19, 2005. The preamble of the policy identifies the importance of high-quality spatial data in various facets such as socio-economic development, conservation of natural resources, infrastructure development, etc.[9]

The policy had not been reviewed over years and therefore, placed strict restrictions on companies and innovators to take prior approvals and go through other stringent procedures and the result red tapism before they could undertake the collection, preparation, publishing, generation, dissemination and updating of the digital geospatial data and maps in India.

This meant that the geospatial sector in India had been majorly controlled by the Union Government and several central agencies like the Survey of India. Since the policy had not been reviewed in decades, as per the laid down norms, the collection of geospatial data was only done from the point of view of security and therefore, it was to only remain under the control of the government and the defense forces. Any private company wanting to create such data had to take permission from the concerned department, along with getting the approvals of Union Defence and Home Ministries.[10]

New Policy(2021)

The Government has recently announced liberalised guidelines for geo-spatial data and formulated a new space-based remote sensing policy to enable enhanced participation of the Indian industry and ease of data access with simplified procedures. The guidelines drafted by the DST for geospatial data will bring sweeping changes to India’s mapping policy, specifically for Indian companies. The new space-based remote sensing policy guidelines by the Department of Space aim at encouraging various stakeholders in the country to actively participate in space-based remote sensing activities to enhance the commercialization of space technology.[11]

The 2021 Guidelines does away with the requirements for approvals, security clearances, and licenses on the generation, publication dissemination, and digitization of maps and geospatial data. Rather than licenses and approvals, the 2021 Guidelines propose a self-certification system to ensure compliance. It also does away with a restriction of maps on prohibited areas. Instead, a ‘negative list’ will be notified by the DST, which will include attributes that will not be permitted to be marked on any map. The 2021 Guidelines provide that this ‘negative list’ will be specific to very sensitive attributes, with care taken to minimize restrictions.[12]

The 2021 Guidelines supersede anything contrary contained in previous policies issued by the Government of India, such as certain aspects of the National Map Policy, 2005 (“NMP”), Instructions for Publication of Maps by Government and Private Publishers, 2016 (“2016 Guidelines”) and Ministry of Defence guidelines on the restriction of sale, publication and distribution of maps, issued in 2017 (“2017 Guidelines”). These changes mark a paradigm shift in India’s policies on mapping and the collection, dissemination and use of geospatial data.[13]


The liberalization of geospatial data and the transition towards openness is going to lead to:

  • Scalability of Solutions
  • Geospatial Industry Competitiveness
  • Open and Easy Access to Geospatial Information
  • Partnership and Collaboration
  • Enhanced Adoption across Non-Traditional Sectors
  • Impetus to Geospatial Education[14]

By liberalising the system, the government will ensure that there are more competitors in the industry, that Indian enterprises are more competitive in the global market, and that more accurate data is available to both the government and individual Indians. Startups and enterprises may now utilize this data to set up their operations, particularly in the fields of e-commerce and geo-spatial-based apps, which will result in more jobs in these fields. Indian businesses would be permitted to create their own applications, such as an Indian version of Google Maps. With the liberalization of this sector, there is also expected to be a rise in public-private partnerships, with data collection companies collaborating with the Indian government on various sectoral initiatives. The government also anticipates a rise in corporate investment in the geospatial industry, as well as an increase in data export to other enterprises and nations, both of which would improve the economy.[15]

The Ministry of Rural development has launched a new geospatial planning portal, ‘Yuktdhara’ to help in facilitating the new MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) assets with the use of remote sensing and GIS (Geographic Information System) based information. It is a new portal under ‘Bhuvan’. It is the result of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Ministry of Rural Development working together to build a G2G (Government-to-Government) service for rural planning in support of decentralised decision-making. ISRO’s Geoportal Bhuvan, which was previously launched, is now the de-facto geospatial platform for numerous developmental planning operations across India[16].

In India, the year 2021 was a blink-and-you’ll-miss conveyor belt of privacy and data security operations. There was no shortage of action on the legislative and executive sides as the clamour for a comprehensive data privacy law in India became louder than ever. Significant reforms were made by the Indian government, including the liberalisation of the outdated geospatial data system, the introduction of industry standards for privacy assurance, and the tightening of security measures in the digital payments sector[17].

Indian Experience with Geospatial data

Geo Spatial Data refers to “positional data with or without attribute data tagged, whether in the form of images, videos, vector, voxel and/or raster datasets or any other type of geospatial dataset in digitized or non-digitized form or web-services”. [18]It includes locational information whether natural or manmade, imaginary or physical, above the ground or below the ground, points of interest, natural phenomena, mobility data, weather patterns, statistical information etc. The data capturing is possible through ground based survey techniques, unmanned aerial vehicles, mobile mapping system, photogrammetry, RADAR, satellite-based remote sensing etc.[19]

Ability to access location in the digital ecosystem has unlocked various boons and is aiding towards a sustainably developed economy with various environmental, social and economic opportunities. Geospatial technology plays a key role in analysing calamities, offering better solutions in making logistics, e-commerce and related businesses more efficient through availability of accurate locations. Moreover, it also aids in enhancing the efficiency of agricultural, mining, infrastructure and other sectors crucial for the economy.[20]

The present policy is a complete reverse stance from what geospatial data regulation was understood in 2016 after the Pathankot attacks. With the widely available Google mapping technology having aided the terrorists to launch an attack, as a response to the security threat to the nation, the government in 2016 had introduced the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill (GIRB). [21]The Bill, introduced without registering the concerns of stakeholders restricted the geospatial data usage, allowing it only after obtaining a license from the Security Vetting Authority. A violation of the Bill invited severe punitive measures. [22]

Veering away from these concerns and in order to pursue the mission of Atmanirbhar Bharat, the government has given effect to the present policy of liberalising the geospatial mapping policy that would not only invite innovations from almost every sector of the economy but also aid in enhancing the ease of doing business in the country. This availability of information to the public is also a reason for the wide redundancy confidentiality brings when the entire world has moved on to exchanging geospatial data.


The deregulation of National Mapping Policy is surely a good policy which is believed to have answered a broad variety of concerns and complications emerging out of India’s continual keeping of secrecy concerning geospatial data. This includes the use of several versions of the Indian territorial map by search engines such as Google. The rules are well-suited to accomplishing the goal of an Atma Nirbhar Bharat and a long-term economy. However, especially when the government has chosen a no-interference policy, legitimate attention may be drawn to the personal data issues that such liberalisation would engender. In light of this, including geographical data into regulations governing personal data in specific circumstances might be a viable option.


[1] Geospatial data definition, IBM, (Dec 12, 2021)

[2]  Bulbul DhawanGovernment brings in new Geospatial Sector policy: Why liberalisation of geospatial data is needed, FINANCIAL EXPRESS(Feb. 16, 2021 1:40 PM), accessed: Dec 12, 2021).

[3] Bulbul Dhawan, New geospatial policy in India: How liberalised geospatial data will help private Indian entities, (April 23, 2021,3:22 PM), FINANCIAL EXPRESS, accessed: Dec 12, 2021).

[4]Guidelines for acquiring and producing Geospatial Data and Geospatial Data Services including Maps. DST F.No.SM/25/02/2020 (Part-I) dated 15th February, 2021. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[5] “Geospatial Data” has been defined as “Positional data with or without attribute data tagged, whether in the form of images, videos, vector, voxel and/or raster datasets or any other type of geospatial dataset in digitized or non-digitized form or web-services”. “Map” has been defined as “Symbolic representation of real-world objects, regions or themes on a given scale which was generally published in paper form but now also available as web-map-service”.

[6] India | Geospatial Data Guidelines, 2021. (2021, March 4). Retrieved from


[7] The National Law review. Maps and Geospatial Data in India–Regime Liberalized, Volume XII, Number 75. (2022, March 16). Retrieved from

[8] Id

[9]Adya Garg,  Legal Challenges to Mapping in India #1 – Laws, Policies, and Cases, CIS, (Dec. 12, 2021)

[10]Supra Note 2.

[11] Ministry of Science and Technology, Liberalised geospatial policy & space-based remote sensing policies to do wonders for country, Department of Space and Technology,(Dec 12, 2021)

[12] Probir Roy Chowdhury and Yajas Setlu, India: India’s Revised Mapping Policy, MONDAQ,(Dec 12, 2021)

[13] Id.

[14] Meenal Dhande, GeoSmart India 2021: Advancing the role of geospatial knowledge in Indian economy, GEOSPATIAL WORLD, (Dec 12, 2021)

[15] Esha Roy, Explained: Why is India opening up the Geo-spatial sector? What impact will this have?. THE INDIAN EXPRESS, (February 22, 2021 12:33pm),

[16]Geospatial Planning Portal for Geo-MGNREGA. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[17] PRIVACY AND DATA PROTECTION IN INDIA: 2021 WRAP. (2022, January 6). Retrieved from

[18] Adya Garg,  Legal Challenges to Mapping in India #1 – Laws, Policies, and Cases, CIS, (Dec. 12, 2021)

[19] Supra Note 12

[20] Probir Roy Chowdhury and Yajas Setlu, India: India’s Revised Mapping Policy, MONDAQ,(Dec 12, 2021)

[21] Bulbul Dhawan, New geospatial policy in India: How liberalised geospatial data will help private Indian entities, (April 23, 2021,3:22 PM), FINANCIAL EXPRESS, accessed: Dec 12, 2021).

[22] Supra Note 3

#geospatial #indiaregime #akelegalassociates #criminallawyer #lawyer

Scroll to Top
The Bar Council of India does not permit advertisement or solicitation by advocates in any form or manner. By accessing this website, you acknowledge and confirm that you are seeking information relating to Ak Legal and Associates of your own accord and that there has been no form of solicitation, advertisement, or inducement by Ak Legal and Associates or its members. The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as soliciting or advertisement.
No material/information provided on this website should be construed as legal advice. Ak Legal and Associates shall not be liable for consequences of any action taken by relying on the material/information provided on this website.