The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill has completed its discussion on more than 50 out of the total 98 clauses in the bill.
The PDP Bill, 2019, which is likely to be tabled in Parliament during the Budget session 2021 seeks to ensure that the personal data of Indian citizens are safeguarded and not stored overseas.
The bill garnered support from many Opposition parties, while members of the Trinamool Congress and Congress party in the panel were opposing it.
The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha last year and talks about the formation of a data protection authority. Concerns were raised about the bill jeopardising citizens’ right to privacy in the face of “reasonable exceptions”, and hence, the bill was sent to a JPC for deliberation.
“We have completed discussing more than 50 of the 98 clauses and there has been no opposition in these discussions. All the clauses have so far been so far unanimously adopted and have been sent for drafting. None of the members of the opposition parties who have been attending these meetings has moved any amendment so far,” a member of the JPC on the condition of anonymity told Mint.
The JPC, which was supposed to submit its report on the bill during the monsoon session, received an extension last month. The JPC will now submit its report on the bill in the second week of the winter session of Parliament.
After Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, the committee has now invited CYBLE, PayPal Payments, Mastercard India Services, iSPRIT Foundation, Visa Consolidated Supported Services for discussion in its next meetings.
“For a Bill that was unanimously opposed by all key Opposition parties in both the Houses of Parliament, the lack of coordination among the Opposition and non-NDA members in the committee is stark. Individual members are raising concerns, but it is limited to that. Up until now, no pressure is being exerted on the ruling party to get some of our key demands accepted,” another source close to the development added.
Criticism Of PDP Bill
Section 35 of the bill gives the Union government the power to issue reasoned orders exempting any government agency from the application of any/all provisions of the bill for reasons listed in the provisions. Further, Section 36 of the bill allows for certain exemptions in complying with the various provisions, in the interest of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of any offence.
The two clauses in the bill have been flagged by opposition members and domain experts for expanding the scope of exemptions while diluting important safeguards.
A committee of experts under the chairmanship of Justice BN Srikrishna, in its report titled, ‘A Free and Fair Digital Economy, Protecting Privacy, Empowering Indians’, submitted to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in 2018, had noted the importance of ensuring, “the pillars of data protection are not shaken by a vague and nebulous national security exception.”