International Institute of Space Law

Article

Do National Space Laws Look beyond Liability for Damage?

The Case of India

Authors Upasana Dasgupta
Author's information

Upasana Dasgupta
Doctoral Candidate at the Institute of Air and Space Law, McGill University.
  • Abstract

      This paper seeks to critically analyze and review the draft Space Activities Bill, 2017 (“Space Activities Bill”) that was issued by the Government of India on 21 November 2017 for comments. The critique provided in this paper is especially from international law perspective. As the Space Activities Bill provides, its aim is to encourage enhanced participation of non-governmental/ private sector agencies in space activities in India, in compliance with international treaty obligations. Yet a closer look at the said Bill reveals that it essentially only provides for the following: (a) authorisation and license for commercial space activities and prohibition of unauthorised space activity; (b) liability and indemnification to Central Government for damage arising out of commercial space activities; and (c) registration of space objects. Thus, the Space Activities Bill is immoderately focused on liability for damage due to private space activities. While focusing on authorization and liability, other important aspects that may incur international responsibility have been ignored; for example, the definitions under the Space Activities often do not clarify the legal position well. India being a space player for decades and party to most space treaties, the Space Activities Bill should provide a mechanism and procedure for implementing the international obligations undertaken by India under these treaties, such as, carrying out space activities out for the benefit of all; non-appropriation of outer space; and spacesustainability. However, the said Bill, which aims to act as an umbrella space legislation, does not include several such international obligations. Thus the paper argues that while liability and registration are important aspects of space law, there are other important aspects, which should not be ignored while enacting a national space legislation.

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