Can use of GPS be legal in India?

Jan 2007 | Comments Off on Can use of GPS be legal in India?

A citizen’s plea

I am an avid outdoor enthusiast and as such got a very simple GPS handset as a gift from a friend visiting me from abroad. This GPS can simply tell me my location in terms of latitude and longitude anywhere on earth. It can also help me trace back my route if I am lost in say a jungle or desert etc. The device is intended for use outdoors just for fun.

A few friends told me that apparently I need a license to use this device in India. I did some internet based research to find out the truth behind the matter and came across your magazine where you had printed an interview of Mr P K Garg, Wireless Adviser to Government of India, Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) Wing, Ministry of Communications and IT, Government of India. Although I was surprised to read that yes indeed I needed a license to operate the device in India, as confirmed by Mr Garg, being a law abiding citizen I decided I must acquire the license before operating it or at least apply for it. This started off a very frustrating process for me of trying to crack the bureaucracy which I am relating below in the hope that it will be read by someone who is authoritative enough to help me out.

I could quite easily locate the website of WPC but could not find out anything written there on the subject of GPS licence. The next thing I did was to call up the deputy wireless advisor to the government of India, whose phone number is prominently mentioned in the contact us section of the WPC website. He directed me to speak to someone else who looks after licensing etc. This gentleman, a very senior advisor to the government of India told me categorically that there is no policy yet on the use of GPS and therefore I can’t get a licence. He even asked me as to from where I got this handset since it was a “banned” item. When told that I was getting it as a gift from a friend visiting me from abroad, he asked me not to accept the gift, as it was a “banned” item. His unstated hint was that mere possession of the device is illegal – like an unlicensed gun.

Later I found out from another article in your magazine that DGFT has derestricted GPS and it can now be imported freely without any special permission. In any case it was never a banned item but a restricted one.

I remember in my student days thirty years or so ago we used to need license for listening to radio sets. My father used to maintain the blue coloured book and scrupulously pay the license fees every month at the local post office. Although it was a ridiculous system (no one could ever have found out if we were paying the fee or not) but at least the system was in place. People who wanted to use radio knew how to get the licence.

Now in the year 2007 that law abiding citizen’s son is trying to acquire a license for operating a GPS handset and is coming against stonewalls.

My question to you sir is simple – if GPS needs a license to operate in India then what is the procedure for obtaining that license, what forms need to be filled up? Where do I get those forms? I know how to get a driving license, I even know how to get the license for a gun but I don’t know how to get the license for operating my GPS.

I am not really getting into the issue of how ridiculous it is to need a license for GPS. I just want to know how to get the license. If Mr Garg says yes one needs a license, he should also let us know how to get it. The WPC website incidentally is an excellent one except that it does not deal with GPS at all. There I also read the various recent changes in the Telegraph Act (by the way, remote controls for operating mobile cranes have been made license free recently). I am hopeful even GPS will be made license free but the question is when? And till then what happens?


Sudipto Roy

My coordinates
Mark your calendar
May 09 TO DECEMBER 2009

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