India: Maps In Publications: Permissions, Restrictions And Legal Consequences

Last Updated: 7 June 2019
Article by Ashima Obhan and Sumathi Chandrashekaran


Maps make stories easier to understand. Whether it is history, geography or political science, a map can break down complex details into a simple picture, and bring immediate clarity. The boundaries depicted by a map are often fundamental to the story. As a result, the accuracy of maps is of particular concern, and often requires navigating legal and regulatory paths to avoid argument and controversy. This note offers a brief look at the issues that private publishers must keep in mind when publishing maps.

The use of maps in publications by private publishers is governed by the National Map Policy, 2005 ("NMP"), and detailed guidelines ("Guidelines") issued by the Survey of India ("SOI") in December 2016. Under the Guidelines, copyright of both digital and analogue maps vest with the SOI.

Overview of the SOI Guidelines

Fundamentally, maps intended to be published in India must contain accurate and reliable information, particularly with regard to the external boundaries and coastlines. The SOI is responsible for producing, maintaining and disseminating the topographic map database of the country, under the NMP. In turn, SOI issues various guidelines on the implementation of the NMP from time to time. The Guidelines relevant for the present note are titled, "Instructions for Publication of Maps by Govt and Private Publishers – 2016" (see)

These Guidelines explain the restrictions that exist with regard to the publication of maps, i.e., restrictions on the scale and contents of maps. They also detail the processes that need to be followed before publishing certain kinds of maps. Additionally, publishers need to be wary of penal consequences of publishing inaccurate maps. These issues are discussed in more detail below.

Categorisation of Maps

The Guidelines impose restrictions on the scale and contents of maps which are published. The procedure for publication of maps depends on two things: (i) on the category of the maps (i.e. restricted or unrestricted); and (ii) the scale on which the map is proposed to be published.

A straightforward map using an SOI map as base, without changing the original scale, requires no further permissions. But if SOI base maps are adapted with a different scale from that issued by SOI, or if non-SOI maps are used, then special permissions are required.

A further categorisation is that of whether the map for publication falls within the 'Restricted Category' or the 'Unrestricted Category', as that would determine if additional government approvals are required.

Legal Consequences of Depicting Inaccurate External Boundaries and Coast Lines of India

There are multiple implications of showing inaccurate boundaries, and the exact legal effect depends on the nature of the depiction itself. These range from legal effects such as those under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (restricting the collection and sharing of information about 'prohibited places'), the Customs Act, 1962 (prohibiting the export and import of certain maps), to the Criminal Law (Amendment Act) Act, 1990.

Criminal offence

In general terms, the publication of maps depicting inaccurate external boundaries and coastlines of India is treated as questioning the territorial integrity of India, and a person found guilty of the same, may be punishable with imprisonment or with fine or both.

Trading in official secrets

A more serious offence is that found in Section 5 of the Official Trade Secret Act, 1923, which deals with wrongful communication of information. It makes a person guilty of an offence, if that person unlawfully communicates or otherwise uses any map, among other things, over which that person has control, whose disclosure can affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, or the state security. The offence includes communication, using information for the benefit of a foreign power, and failing to take reasonable care of the information that is in one's possession. Consequences can include imprisonment of anything up to 10 years, depending on the gravity of the offence.

Copyright violation

Violating SOI's copyright in publishing its maps without authorisation and appropriate permission and credit, can lead to an offence of copyright infringement as well. The copyright of all maps published by the SOI vests with the Government of India and these maps may not be reproduced or used as basis by publishers without permission of the Surveyor General of India. Any unauthorized reproduction of SOI maps may lead to imprisonment of anything between 6 (six) months to 3 (three) years and with a fine.

Customs violations

Mere publication of an inaccurate map is not the only act that may lead to an offence. It is prohibited to also import into India any publication containing any works, signs or visible representations which directly or indirectly question the frontiers of India. Similarly, it is prohibited to export maps on a scale of one-fourth inch or more equal to a mile and the micro-films obtained from such maps depicting any part of India including its international boundaries and showing topographical features by contours.

Common questions about publishing maps

Some commonly asked questions relating to the publication of maps are discussed here.

— Can a publisher add icons etc to depict places on a map?

So long as the scale of the map remains unchanged and the boundaries of the map are not altered, there is no restriction on the use of icons or other placeholders on a map.

— What is meant by information of a 'sensitive nature' that cannot be depicted on a map?

While the term 'information of a sensitive nature' has not been defined in the Guidelines, Section X of the Guidelines contain a list of items that appear to be sensitive and which cannot be depicted on a map. These include defence installations, civil vital points like hydroelectric projects, dams, oil refineries, atomic power stations, heavy engineering factories, steel plants, civil dockyards, important railway yards, workshops, installations under All India Radio, telecommunications installations and water purification/supply installations.

— Which maps can be used without taking permission?

Maps that are prepared on the basis of the SOI base maps without there being any change in scale do not require prior permission to be obtained, provided that the prepared map does not fall within the 'restricted' category.

— Does prior permission need to be obtained for publishing pre-independence maps?

Yes, prior permission from the SOI is required for publishing pre-independence maps.


The publication of maps is not as straightforward as it may seem to the ordinary reader. The legal implications of publishing inaccurate maps can be quite severe. The SOI has a detailed set of guidelines for obtaining permissions before proceeding with any such publication. However, even before seeking permission from SOI, it is important for publishers to understand the kinds of maps they intend to publish, and factor in time and cost of obtaining appropriate advice and permissions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions