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Legal and policy challenges in space technology


                                                           (Photo: Outlook India)

History is agreed upon as an uninterrupted process
in time and space

India before independence was very different from the
India that we see today. Of course, it is common knowledge that pre 1947 India
consisted of modern day, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The after-independence chase
of India faced major developments and changes that we can see today. India has
an impressive array of achievements in the development of space transport as
well as aviation industry for various applications. From a humble beginning
with a small RH 75 rocket in the sixties to the successful launch of PSLV-D2 with
804 kg IRS-P2 in October, 1994, the Indian space programme has made remarkable
progress through a well-integrated, self-reliant programme. On the other hand, the
civil aviation industry of India has emerged as one of the fastest growing
industries in the country during the last three years. India has become the
third largest domestic aviation market in the world and is expected to overtake
UK to become the third largest air passenger market by 2024.

Every country’s success depends upon its government.
The way it handles the whole economy largely affect its economic environment.
In such a globalized environment, the governmental policies act as the key
factor in determining its real success, be it in field of aviation, space
technology or any other. The government however has reviewed its aviation
policies from time to time and tried to make it friendlier however it lagged in
certain jurisprudence. In the recent past, the outlook of the government of
India has undergone substantial change. It has tried to adopt emerging trends
and include different terminologies, ownership of private companies, more new
projects, financing, hassle free management and its operations. The government
has increased its investment in this sector. Moreover, it has tried to devise
the privatization method to solve many problems attached to this sector.
Privatization is needed for solving the problem of “distressed state syndrome”.
The complete or partial privatization will give positive impact on efficiency,
productivity and profitability. Trends of privatization is rising all around
the world and it is important to analyze all consequences and specific results,
which will be helpful to understand better difficulties and structural changes.

During the COVID time, there was a dramatic drop in
demand for passenger air transport. This threatened the viability of many
firms, putting many jobs at stake. While the aviation industry has often been a
target of government policies, the COVID-19 crisis has precipitated a new suite
of loans, loan guarantees, wage subsidies and equity injections, raising
concerns about efficient use of public resources. The COVID-19 crisis has hit
hard to the economy.

Although the aviation and space sector contribute a
lot to the economy, however every coin has two sides. The other side of the
story is that we have grown, but grown at the cost of our mother nature. The
question that we need to dwell into is: “Do we belong to this earth or does
this earth
belong to us”. Commercial aviation is experiencing dramatic
growth in various regions throughout the world but at the cost of what. It is
leading to the pollution of the environment. Over the past 50 years global
demand for air travel has risen by 9 per cent per annum. The environmental
impact it has caused is very degrading. This has become a cause of concern.


According to the data released by Department for
Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), FDI inflow in India’s air
transport sector (including air freight) reached US$ 2.79 billion between April
2000 and June 2020. The government has allowed 100% FDI under the automatic
route in scheduled air transport service, regional air transport service and
domestic scheduled passenger airline. However, FDI over 49% would require
government approval.

India’s aviation industry is expected to witness Rs.
35,000 crore (US$ 4.99 billion) investment in the next four years. The Indian
Government is planning to invest US$ 1.83 billion for development of airport
infrastructure along with aviation navigation services by 2026.

Key investments and developments in India’s aviation
industry includes:

  • In October 2020, Zurich Airport International
    signed the concession agreement for the development of Jewar Airport on
    the outskirts of Delhi. The agreement has granted Zurich Airport
    International the license to design, build and operate Noida International
    Airport (NIAL) for the next 40 years.

  • In October 2020, the Airports Authority of
    India (AAI) announced plan to upgrade runways at seven airports across the
    country by March 2022.

  • In January 2020, IndiGo became first Indian
    carrier to have an aircraft fleet size of 250 planes and became the first
    airline to operate 1,500 flights per day.

  • In December 2019, AAI announced its plans to
    set up India's first three water aerodromes in Andaman & Nicobar

  • As of December 2019, France-based Safran Group
    planned an investment of US$ 150 million in a new aircraft engine
    maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) unit in India to cater to its
    airline customers.

  • AAI plans to invest Rs. 25,000crore (US$ 3.58
    billion) in next the five years to augment facilities and infrastructure
    at air transport.


What we can sketch out is that there’s a greater
need for space legislation. With no legal obligation, the dream of ‘DIGITAL
can’t be achieved. A robust legal regime would instill investor
confidence, attract FDI and new technologies, reduce administrative and
regulatory uncertainties, provide clarity on stamp duty, registration
requirements, insurance, transfer of property, contractual obligation, space
debris liability and intellectual property rights concerning space-related
issues, and flourish space entrepreneurship by providing a level playing field
to the private entities. 

The policymakers need to resolve the following
issues in virtue of requisite space legislation:

Single Independent Regulator – In
contradiction to the present multiple ministries, agencies and departments,
namely, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Department of Space, the satellite
divisions of Department of Telecom, the Department of Telecommunications, the
Telecom Engineering Centre, the Network Operation and Control Centre, the
Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Defense, a single independent
regulator is required to perform regulatory processes including the issuance of
a place in orbit to launch a satellite and/or rocket, mandatory licenses to
launch it, spectrum to communicate with it, and clearance for the technology
and/or space equipment to be used. 

Space debris – Space debris or space junk encompasses both man-made and natural
(meteoroid) particles that enhance the probability of disastrous collision that
may cause damage to space vehicles. Although there is no specific international
treaty or convention dealing with the imposition of liability, some
long-standing guidelines were issued by NASA, on ‘how to deal with
space debris’ which were later adopted by the UN General Assembly and COPUOS.
However, well-defined provisions on liability of the launching state need to be
formulated to reduce the persisting or potential conflicts among countries.

Security measures – With the rising threats to
national peace and security by potential space and cyber warfare possibilities,
countries need to invest adequately in adopting cyber and military security
measures. Rules and regulations on lines with the Data protection laws
need to be formulated to ensure that adequate cyber security measures are in

Granting of license - The process for
granting a license is yet to be developed, but section 5 of the Bill envisages
that there will be eligibility criteria, and a fee to pay, without giving any
detail or indication as to what those criteria or fees might be. In particular,
it sets out the obligation to provide a financial guarantee or insurance, which
essentially addresses the broader liability question and the principles of
liability that flow under the international space regime.

Intellectual property rights- Section 25 of the Bill states, "Any
invention, or other form of intellectual property rights, developed, generated
or created during the course of any space activity shall be protected by any
law for the time being in force, with the primary objective of safe guarding
national security.
such a provision might deter the
potential participation of the private sector in the Indian space industry and
thus needs to be looked into by the policymakers to enable innovation in the
space industry.    


“Without your involvement you can't succeed. With
your involvement you can't fail.”

Well said by APJ Abdul Kalam.
India’s aviation and space transport are largely untapped with huge growth
opportunities. It’s the need of the hour to grab these opportunities and
the government should deeply involve in this process by making key changes in
its policy and legal framework. A single policy should be adopted. In aviation
industry, a lot of digital transformation is required. A big vision and
strategy are needed to get through stormy waters. Cost pressure should be taken
into account. New technology should be adopted. With the increase in
competition and entry of private players, only the companies who do best will
be able to survive. On the other hand, in space industry, policy changes are
needed to make the space sector more accessible to private players. There’s a
need of single space legislation. Changes are needed in New Space India Limited
(NSIL). Last year, the finance minister announced the opening up of the ISRO’s
facilities to the country’s private sector as part of its COVID-19 special
economic stimulus. This was an early but a commendable step. Many a thing have
changed since COVID.

it is said, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” We should also hope for
the best. It is at these times when the government was able to realize its
incapability and failure and hopefully it has started considering legal and
policy aspect that needs deeper consideration

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