November 2017 Update: There is news that commercial and recreational use of drones will soon be legalised in India. And now, the first draft of the drone regulations seem to be ready. Until then, what’s written below applies.
Flying drones (by any non-governmental agency or any individual) without prior approval from the governmental authorities is illegal in India. Until recreational drone laws are formalised, flying them is prohibited by the Director General of Civil Aviation. And because there are no recreational drone laws currently, UAV laws apply to drones India.
Flying drones is also illegal in India This illegality comes from perceived security risks that UAVs can be used potentially to carry out aerial attacks, and can pose threats if not regulated. Therefore, till such time drone regulations are announced, drones are illegal in India.
There aren’t any well defined penalties for flying drones in India. There have been instances from drone operators being jailed, to having their drone broken.
Updated November 2017
Drones in India fall into a grey area. Because there are no specific drone laws, they are both governed, and not governed by UAV laws in India. As the current prohibition does not apply to the sale of drones, you can buy a drone in India but you cannot fly it. Or rather, it is almost impossible to fly it freely.
There are several people, who I personally know, who have “smuggled” their drones into the country. And of course, they do fly their drones. However, India is a massive country, and the chances of getting caught are very slim (unless they fly it directly over crowded areas).
On the other hand, drones have become a fairly common sighting at Indian weddings. Weddings are a private event, and photographers are explicitly instructed to fly their machines over the venue.
If you’re traveling to India on a vacation do not to carry your drone. Avoid any issues with the police or authorities. Drone laws in India are loosely defined, and it is up to the police’s discretion to decide how to handle each case.
According to news article published in September 2017, the Home Ministry has plans to acquire high power electromagnetic systems to deal with drones.
Also, another word of caution. People transiting through India have had their propellers confiscated at the airport! Just goes to show how unfriendly India is when it comes to drones.