Tech policy groups and civil societies are reportedly planning to write a letter to Meenakshi Lekhi, the chairperson of the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on the personal data protection bill (PDP) to seek wider consultations on the policy and related issues.
Groups like Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC) India have already written to Lekhi to call them and other tech policy groups for consultations. Few others are likely to send in their letter over the next week.
In its letter, SFLC India has said that while others were given a chance for appearance, civil societies haven’t been called for oral consultations by JPC.
“Through this letter, we sincerely hope that the Joint Parliamentary Committee, under your chairpersonship, will invite civil society organisations that defend rights of citizens in the digital space for consultation on the draft Data Protection Bill,” SFLC said in its letter to Lekhi.
However, JPC may not call tech policy groups or civil societies for consultations as they are likely to move to clause by clause consultation and discussion from the next meeting onward, sources told Indian Express.
“The committee wants to wrap up consultations as soon as possible and submit its recommendations so that the bill is given a final shape. It may not be possible to invite more stakeholders for face-to-face consultations,” a senior government official said.
The Committee recently said that it has completed its discussion on more than 50 out of the total 98 clauses in the bill.
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.
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.
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.”