India Preparing Law to Fine Cartographers Up To $15 Million For Making Maps Not To Its Liking

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Updated July 3, 2016: This article originally was summary of a news article that appears in the Washington Post (see link at end of article) but has now been updated (by Caitlin Dempsey) with supporting references from Indian news organizations and the United Nations.  

India has drafted a law that includes a component that would require mapmakers to depict India in a very specific way. Wrapped within this law is a requirement that maps of India could only be drawn showing government approved borders which includes disputed areas in the region (see the CIA’s list of disputes for some preliminary detail about these disputes.  In no way, shape, or form is this article on GIS Lounge to be interpreted as weighing in on the legitimacy of claims by the various countries involved.).  According to the India Times, the draft bill states, “No person shall depict, disseminate, publish or distribute any wrong or false topographic information of India including international boundaries through internet platforms or online services or in any electronic or physical form” [1].  The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill would require the approval of the Indian government in order to produce or disseminate geospatial information showing any part of India, including the including “Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) or Arunachal Pradesh” [2].

This map produced by the Central Intelligence Agency of the Kashmir Region in 2002 helps to illustrate geographically the dispute in that particular area.

The disputed area of Kashmir, Central Intelligence Agency (2003).
The disputed area of Kashmir, Central Intelligence Agency (2002). Source:

The draft of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill has drawn the ire of Pakistan which expressed its “serious concern” stating, “in violation of UNSC resolutions, the official map of India has been depicting the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir as part of India which is factually incorrect and legally untenable” [3].

Currently, many map makers take an “on the fence approach”, showing contested borders as a dashed line. Some map makers such as Google, have tried a different approach, drawing boundary line differently depending on the originating country of the visitor as shown in the example below.

For Chinese users Google Maps show Arunachal Pradesh as part of China
For Indian Users, Google maps shows Arunachal Pradesh as part of India.
For users outside of India and China, Arunachal Pradesh is showed using dotted lines as a disputed region.

The law is just a draft and has launched a slew of news and blog articles debating its requirements.  The law would require map making companies in India to conform to new laws as well as apply for a new permit to print maps.  Violators could potentially face up to seven years of prison and a fine of up to $15 million.

Cartographers beware: India warns of $15 million fine for maps it doesn’t like.  Washington Post, May 6, 2016.

Draft: Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, May 4, 2016.

United Nations which has a background summary about the Kashmir dispute and its role in mediation here


[1] Dabas, M.  (2016, May 9).  Looks Like India’s New Map Law Just Scared Google Into Showing J&K, Arunachal As Indian States.  India Times.  Retrieved July 3, 2016 from

[2] Sharma, A.  (2016, May 5). Showing PoK Or Arunachal Pradesh Outside India On A Map Might Earn You 1 Crore Rs. Fine And 7 Years In Jail! India Times.  Retrieved July 3, 2016 from

[3] PTI.  (2016, May 17).  Pakistan expresses ‘concern’ to UN over India’s proposed map discrepancy law.  India Times.  Retrieved July 3, 2016 from

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