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Space Laws In India

The body of law which deals and governs with space-related activities is referred to as the Space law. The Space law, like the international law, consists of a variety of international agreements, conventions are treaties, the United Nations General Assembly resolutions as well as the rules and regulations of several international organizations. Space Law is concerned with the rules, regulations, principles and standards of international law appearing in the five international treaties namely.

The Outer Space Treaty, The Rescue Agreement, The Liability Convention, The Registration Convention and The Moon Agreement, and five sets of principles governing outer space which have been formed under the patronage and aegis of the United Nations. In addition to these international agreements and treaties, many states have their own national legislations governing the space-related activities.

The Space law addresses and looks into a variety of matters, such as the preservation of the space and Earth environment, the liability for damages caused by space objects, the settlement of disputes, the rescue of astronauts, the sharing of information about potential dangers in outer space, the use of space-related technologies, and international cooperation.1.

A number of cardinal and fundamental principles guide the conduct of space activities, including the belief that the space is the territory of the mankind, the freedom to explore and the use of outer space by all states without any sort of discrimination and also the principle of non-appropriation of outer space which prohibits states from determining their sovereignty over space bodies.

Indian Space Laws

India still does not have a space law to govern its activities in the outer space. The government has its monopoly in India's pace sector, which is led by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The private sector has requested the government a number of times to open up the Indian Space Programme so that businesses can invest to build India's space capabilities. However, no major changes have been brought and the space program is still under the monopoly of the government.

The Space Activities Bill 2017 was introduced by the Indian Government to make a change in terms of the space policies of India. The draft bill has completed public and legal consultation and it has now been sent for further approvals.

The space activities in India are entirely governed by the Department of Space since its establishment in 1972 and before that the Department of Atomic Energy was taking care of all the administrative activities of the space programme of India. The need for national space laws or policies was never felt in India until recently as outer space is not seen as a domestic issue but as an international issue.

India never considered having a space law due to the following two reasons: Firstly, earlier India did not have a private sector which could invest in the outer space plans of India. It is only after the private sector recognized the potential in investing in India's space programme that willingness to invest in India's space programme was shown.

Secondly, the Indian Space Programme did not plan to explore the space or even send manned or unmanned mission to the outer space however, this has now changed as India has sent missions to Mars and moon. India was of the opinion that India was already a party to many international space laws and there was no need for separate domestic space laws.

At present, the things have changed significantly. In May 2020, the government proposed to privatize the Indian Space Programme however, this assertion was denied by the chairman of the Indian Space Programme many times.

In June 2020, the government introduced a new organization known as the IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre). IN-SPACe is a "single window nodal agency" established to boost the commercialization of Indian space activities."2. It was due to the formation of this organization that the debate around the privatization of the Indian space programme had begun.

This Indian government had also come up with a draft of the Space-based Communication Policy of India-2020 namely the Spacecom Policy- 2020 and the draft norms, rules and regulations and the guidelines and procedures for the implementation of the Spacecom Policy-2020.

The policy aims to do the following two things. Firstly, the policy aims at regulating the commercial use of satellites, orbital slots, and ground stations for communication needs. Secondly, this policy also discusses how private players can get authorization to institute new communication satellites and ground stations.

India still does not have enough and appropriate space laws as this is a newer issue in comparison to the issues and topics on which various laws already exist. India is forming new space laws and even proposing new laws regarding outer space. There is definitely a need for laws on outer space as in the present times disputed arise on every single issue so there is a need for space laws to govern the activities in the outer space. Many other countries have their own space laws and India cannot rely on international treaties only so more and better space laws are the need of the hour.

  1. United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs,
  2. Martand Jha,
Written By: Akshita Tandon, 4th Year Law Student, University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University, Punjab

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