Need for a Comprehensive Space Law in India

Introduction

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) through its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle successfully launched 104 satellites in one single flight, on February 15, 2017. This was just one among the numerous other launches that made India immensely proud. In spite of such progressive growth in space activities, space industry and successful launches, India still lacks a robust legislation on the subject.

For many years now, space law experts in India have been vigorously debating the need to enact a comprehensive space law to cover a wide range of issues concerning the exploration of the final frontiers and help consolidate India’s position as an emerging global space power in its own right.

 

Developments in Space Activities

The first rocket which launched into space was used to launch Sputnik, the first satellite, on October 4, 1957. The first satellite launched by India was Aryabhata which was launched by the Soviet Union on April 19, 1975. More than 40 years have elapsed, and still we do not have a national law on the subject. In this context, it is worth noting that India is a country having a homemade satellite placed in the orbit.

The debris of an Indian satellite falling back to earth from the orbit onto a Japanese fishing village have recently caused an international dispute due to lack of legislation on the subject. Even though the liability shall be governed by the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects 1972 (better known as ‘Space Liability Convention’), India needs its own national law to resolve issues relating to liabilities and damages.

According to United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses Of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) the space activities shall include a variety of matters, such as military activities in outer space, preservation of the space and earth environment, liability for damages caused by space objects, settlement of disputes, protection of national interests, rescue of astronauts, sharing of information about potential dangers in outer space, use of space-related technologies and international cooperation[1]. The lack of a national law governing space activities in India is likely to create confusions in its future initiatives too.

 

Developments in Space Industry

Antrix Corporation is the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Antrix promotes and commercially markets the products and services emanating from the Indian Space Programme. In the year 2008, Antrix Corporation was awarded ‘MINIRATNA’ status. It provides for transponder provisioning services, launch services, remote sensing services, spacecraft and subsystems, mission support, and ground infrastructure for space based needs.

If a national law is enacted, it would encourage more private companies including international players to build consortiums with ISRO to deliver satellites and launch vehicles. This will provide a huge revenue boost to ISRO and will enable it to focus more on its launch activities and outer space research.

 

Current Legislation

The Indian space activities and the industry abide by a number of international treaties[2] and are also guided by the Allocation of Business Rules for the Department of Space along with other legislations enacted by the Government of India. Unfortunately there isn’t a national law in India unlike many other countries like Argentina, Austria, Australia or Belgium.

Working on the formulation of a proper legal framework is very crucial as India has already made its mark in the space industry and is technologically heading forward at a rapid speed. Further, India is internationally looked upon for its new initiatives in space industry and technology.

A national space law is also important from various other perspectives .We are currently seeing an increased participation of non-governmental entities in space activities, appropriate control mechanisms need to be put in place covering, the authorization and supervision of such non-governmental entities on space activities.[3]

Moreover many other major issues including space debris, space insurance (providing insurance and risk management solutions to the space insurance industry), intellectual property etc. can also be resolved appropriately only through a national law.

The Space Liability Convention imposes responsibility on the launching state for any activity of its governmental and non-governmental agencies. From this perspective too, a national space law is essential as it can govern any liability arising from a space activity and the quantum of damages incurred.

 

Conclusion

The space industry offers vast opportunities for a large number of stakeholders. A comprehensive legislation on this subject will open up new ventures in diverse fields of technology. India is fast developing and its contributions towards the space industry have been phenomenal. A comprehensive legal framework on this subject will be a fitting tribute to the numerous masterminds behind India’s enviable growth in this industry, and shall certainly take us to greater heights!

 

[1] http://www.unoosa.org

[2] UNITED NATIONS Office for Outer Space Affairs.

[3] National space law, Refer http://www.unoosa.org

 

Author: Devika Kishore

Devika Kishore is currently pursuing her third year B.A.LL.B at Kerala Law Academy Law College, Trivandrum, Kerala. She has participated in various national moot court competitions and client consulting competitions. Her major areas of interest include Constitutional Law, Civil Law and Law of Contract. She is also interested in legal drafting, debating and literature.