Law, College of


Date of this Version



Indian Yearbook of International Law and Policy (2009), section II: Articles, chapter 5: p. 135-163.


Copyright 2009, the author. Used by permission.


The discussion on a forum on the famous web-based LinkedIn networking site has already taken off: should India, as party to the four most important international space treaties, also develop a national space law, as other states increasingly are doing? That India is currently one of the leading spacefaring nations in the world is beyond discussion. In itself, however, that does not necessarily necessitate going through the trouble of drafting and implementing a national space law.

This article, however, argues that indeed, following the examples of a growing number of spacefaring states around the world discussed in some detail as far as, in particular, liability and attendant insurance issues are concerned, India should also develop such a national space law. On the one hand, it is shown to allow states to implement their international obligations under space law in a comprehensive fashion, and for example properly deal with the liability they may incur for private space activities. On the other hand, it would create a considerable measure of clarity for private parties interested in contributing to the general space effort in terms of the rights and obligations they would take upon themselves in doing so.

The main conclusion drawn for India following the extended analysis by the present article is that, unless it would insist on precluding any private sector involvement in space activities, both by Indian companies and by foreign companies operating in or from India and, going decidedly against the global trends, would attempt to roll back any such existing developments in this respect, there can be little doubt that India needs some sort of national legal framework dealing with private activities in outer space by means essentially of a licensing system.

At the least, this would be necessary for the compliance with key obligations resting upon India under the international space law treaties, pertaining to such issues as responsibility, liability and registration of space objects. From a more positive and proactive perspective, moreover, it would also be desirable to ensure that private efforts and money might be harnessed for the broader public cause of the peoples and economy of India: if properly guided by a regulatory framework, this would be the proverbial win-win situation.