The Indian Space Program (ISP) has traversed a galactic distance from its humble beginnings in the 1960s. The ISP is one of the most successful space programs of the world and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is one of the most promising actors in this space. Today, ISRO employs 17,222 people and has a budget of around $1.9bn which is the 7th highest budget among all the space agencies of the world.
Even with such grand scale of operations, India does not have a national legislation for the regulation of activities in the outer space. The urgency for the need of relevant legislation can be gauged from the fact that a number of countries including Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa and Ukraine, have not only drafted but cemented their legal framework for the regulation of activities in outer space.
Why is a National Space Law Needed?
The vision and mission of the ISP, since its inception, has been guided by the umbrella terms of application of space technology primarily for “societal needs and national development”. However, with the rapid expansion of ISRO in terms of its functions and stakeholders, the need for a detailed, comprehensive and a futuristic space law cannot be overstated.
Additionally, space technologies interact with a wide spectrum of activities. Application of space technologies is already altering/has the potential to alter the modus operandi of number of sectors. These sectors include but are not limited to telecommunications, remote sensing, earth observation, disaster management, aviation, maritime activities, agriculture, navigation, defense & security and many more.
Drafting the space law of the country is a humungous task. Moreover, the task is going to be even more challenging for India given its vast space program, an expanding economy, a complex business network, a thriving start-up ecosystem, intended limited privatization of space activities and the unique position in South Asia in terms of security.
With the rapid expansion of ISRO in terms of its functions and stakeholders, a detailed legislation specific to space related activities is the need of the hour.