The Delhi High Court on July 24th asked the Centre to see whether Google should be restrained from uploading maps of India, including defence installations, on its web services – specifically on Google Earth, reports Bar & Bench. A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar issued the directive, in response to a PIL (see below) filed by Kisalaya Shukla. He petitioned the court against the Union of India, Home ministry, and Defence ministry since they hadn’t restrained Google India from publishing detailed maps of India on internet and making it available to the public. He said that the availability of critical and sensitive information of India’s defence establishments in the form of 3D images was a blatant violation of India’s sovereignty.

MediaNama has reached out to Google for comment and will update this when they respond.

‘Google makes India’s locations available to hostile nations’: What the petition said

The petition claimed that such vital and critical information is not just available to the general public, but also to “hostile nations”. It also notes that despite the government’s refusal to make Google’s ‘Street View’ available to public, the company continues to host “panoramic view of all cities of India including the areas bordering Line of Actual Control”. Shukla also said that Google provides “tools and mechanisms” on Google Earth and on its web service that can calculate the actual distance between two places. The lone terrorist captured after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks had admitted to using services by Google to study and conduct a “reconnaissance” of the city according to Wikipedia, the petitioner notes.

It further claims that strategically vulnerable locations in India where even photographing airports is prohibited, are readily available on Google’s website. It gives the example of Kushok Bakula Rimpochee – an airport in Leh and an Air Force base which is available for commercial purposes for a limited number of hours – whose street level images along with the defence vehicles can be seen on Google’s website. The petitioner argued that no private company, whether domestic or foreign, should be allowed to map India, and prayed for a direction to the Central Government to make India’s indigenous navigation system, ‘NAVIC’,  available to the general public at the earliest.