Govt withdraws data protection Bill to bring revamped, refreshed regulation

Govt withdraws data protection Bill to bring revamped, refreshed regulation

Personal Data Protection Bill: The Government of India (GoI) on August 4, 2022, announced the withdrawal of the Personal Data Protection Bill 2022 from Parliament.

Key Highlights:

  • The formal announcement about the withdrawal of Personal Data Protection Bill was made by Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) Ashwini Vaishnaw.
  • The Bill, which was introduced in 2019, sought to regulate how various parties, including the government, use individuals' personal information and digital data in the internet ecosystem.
  • The Personal Data Protection Bill was in the works since 2018.
  • It was drafted first by a panel led by retired Supreme Court judge Justice B N Srikrishna.
  • The government has taken this step after nearly four years of the Bill being in the works.

Key Points about the Bill:

  • The withdrawal is based on the multiple recommendations and changes proposed by the Parliamentary Committee, the government feels that a “comprehensive legal framework” to regulate the online space is required.
  • Furthermore, the government has decided to introduce separate laws to mitigate use of Personal Data in the Digital Ecosystem including cybersecurity, telecom regulations, and harnessing non-personal data.
  • The government has decided to come up with a fresh bill that fits into the comprehensive legal framework with reference to the suggestions made by the Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP) on the Bill.
  • The JCP had submitted a 542-page report with overall 93 recommendations and 81 amendments to the Personal Data Protection Bill in December 2021.
  • Apart from that, the panel, headed by former Union Minister, had also recommended about 97 corrections and improvements to the Bill.

Why has the Personal Data Protection Bill been withdrawn?

  • The JPC-proposed revisions to the draught legislation drew harsh criticism from different stakeholders within the society.
  • The JPC had proposed 81 amendments in a bill of 99 sections and 12 recommendations to the draft bill which was submitted by the Srikrishna Committee, which will lead to comprehensive changes to proposed law.
  • In reality, Section 12 (a)(i) of the Bill permitted the government to collect personal data without the informed consent and approval of individuals on the grounds of “national sovereignty” and “public order”.
  • Also, the regulatory structure of the DPA was not independent as the Central government could appoint its members which would interfere with the committee’s decisions regarding violations of privacy and misuse of data by the government.

Critisism:

Over the years the bill received severe pushback from various stakeholders,from privacy advocates to civil society organizations.

They have criticized the following, among other things: -

  • The broad exemptions to the bill’s provisions carved out in government’s favor,
  • The Data Protection Authority’s lack of independence,
  • The inclusion of non-personal data,
  • the priority given to economic interests, and
  • The failure to adequately safeguard citizens’ privacy and personal data.

Background:

  • When the Supreme Court of India declared that privacy is a basic right, the wheels for creating a law to control the use of citizens' digital data were set in action in 2017.
  • The apex court, had also directed the government to come-up with a legal framework for data protection.
  • In 2017, Justice Srikrishna panel, which was set up in response to the Court’s verdict, submitted a white-paper outlaying the key aspects that a Data Protection Bill should look at.
  • In 2018, a draft Data Protection Bill was submitted to the MeitY by the Srikrishna Committee. 
  • In 2019, the draft bill was sent to Joint Parliamentary Committee headed by BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi.
  • A detailed analysis and comprehensive, clause-by-clause review of the provisions of the bill over next three years was held by JPC.
  • In July 2021, BJP MP PP Chaudhary took over from Ms Lekhi as the JPC Chairperson, after the latter was appointed as the Minister of State for External Affairs.
  • In Dec 2021, JCP tabled its review report before the Parliament.
  • The draft bill received heavy backlash from different stakeholders and Justice Srikrishna also termed it a tool that can turn the India into an “Orwellian state” and against the welfare of a free and open society.

The Data Protection Bill was drafted by which committee?
A) Shrikrishna Committee
B) Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP)
C) Shekatkar Committee
D) Raja Chelliah Committee