Call off Google’s Mapathon contest: Surveyor General of India

Offense violates Official Secrets Act, says Supreme Court lawyer Ranjith Marar.

By Neethu M.

NEW DELHI: The Surveyor General of India has asked Google to call off the Mapathon Contest 2013, which is supposed to culminate today.

Mapathon 2013, which started on February 12th, is an India-wide mapping contest by Google with prizes for top entries. Google Maps users from all over the country have been invited “to help create better maps for India” by sending maps of local neighborhoods. Anyone can join the contest and map even minute regional details of a particular place.

The whole issue brew up when the Bhartiya Janata Party made a statement that Google should be booked for the “violation” of India’s defense regulation and National Map Policy.

In an interview to The American Bazaar, the Surveyor General of India, Subba Rao Swarna, said today that Google has not taken prior permission from the Government of India before conducting the contest.

“Every map generated should be scrutinized by the Surveyor General of India before it goes public,” said Swarna.

He said he had already sent a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Defense to look into the matter. The Surveyor General of India has also lodged a complaint against Google regarding the violation of Indian laws pertaining to the matter.

BJP MP Tarun Vijay, in an interview to The American Bazaar said that “getting every inch of India mapped by illegally inviting people to send the data for their US-based servers presents a grave danger to the security and poses a challenge to the Indian state.”

Vijay said that he had a word with the Ministry of Science & Technology after which they said that they will look into the matter and take necessary actions.

Supreme Court Lawyer Ranjith Marar too sided with the Indian government’s position.

“The authority to prepare defense series of maps has been solely given to the Survey of India and hence there is violation of the policy,” said Marar in an interview to The American Bazaar. “The offense comes under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act 1923.”

Marar also opined that the law is quite tricky and lacks clarity.

“The maps which would be now produced in the contest could be directly or indirectly used by an enemy of the nation and hence the maker of the same and Google could be charged with the offence under Section 3 which could be punishable with 14 years. In case it’s is in relation to defense military arsenal etc. and in any other case, it could be three years . It may be pertinent to note that the penalty comes with a clause that the intention to have the maps used by the enemy may not even be proved,” said Marar.

Marar also commented that the appropriate procedure for the Government of India may be to issue order restraining Google from holding the contest, asking them to withdraw the contest and content generated from it, if at all any is published . If Google violates these conditions, they can necessarily be prosecuted.

A Google spokesperson refused to comment on the issue.

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