Parliament’s joint committee on the 2019 personal data protection bill adopted its draft report on the bill on Monday, after several rounds of meetings, depositions and red flags from members of the opposition amid heightened privacy concerns following the Pegasus disclosures. , with several congressmen, the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) and other parties submitting dissent notes.
Government officials claimed the report was adopted “unanimously,” but a few opposition members said they submitted their dissent notes or were in the process of doing so before the deadline of 24. November set by the chairman of the PP Chaudhary commission.
The panel received 93 recommendations for the bill, which has 99 articles. The report is expected to be tabled before the end of the first week of Parliament’s winter session, which begins on November 29.
The dissenting notes relate mainly to articles 35 and 12 of the draft law. Opposition MPs opposed section 35, saying privacy concerns only arise when the operations and activities of private companies are concerned. The article states that the government and its agencies are exempt because their activities are in the public and national interest and treat the privacy of individuals as secondary.
Section 12 (a) (i) allows certain exceptions for government and its agencies to provide consent. Opposition MPs were not in favor of blanket exemptions and wanted to put in checks. They also pointed out that while private companies would have two years to migrate to the new data protection regime, no such provision was made for government agencies.
Dissenting members also referred to the judgment of nine Supreme Court privacy judges in the Puttaswamy case in August 2017 and felt it was only considered relevant to a small section of Indians. in the Data Protection Bill.
Some of the members argued that social media intermediaries should be held accountable for their followers and the content they post on their sites. They also said penalties should be imposed on those who breach data and illegally share it with others, and that restrictions should be placed on data that children access through the internet.
Congressman Jairam Ramesh shared his dissent note on the microblogging site Twitter, saying, “I am obligated to submit a detailed dissent note. But that should not detract from the democratic way in which the committee has operated. Now it’s time for debate in Parliament.
Ramesh said the dissenting notes are in the best spirit of parliamentary democracy. “Unfortunately, such examples are rare under the Modi regime,” he said.
“Article 35 gives almost unlimited powers to the central government to exempt any government agency from the whole of the law itself,” he said.
He suggested that the government seek parliamentary approval to exempt any agency from the scope of the law. He also wants the reasons for the exemption to be recorded in writing.
Members of the BJP and NDA were of the view that national security should take precedence over the privacy of individuals and therefore said exemptions granted to government agencies were justified. They also defended Article 12, stipulating that personal data to confirm identity and other good faith information must be shared to benefit the public distribution system, during security checks at airports and public places. , and in banking institutions like RTGS, among others.
BJD member Bhartruhari Mahtab said he would submit a dissent note on certain sections of the bill. These include imposing strict penalties on those who access and dispose of data illegally, the government issues written instructions explaining why certain sections are exempt from this law, and holds social media intermediaries accountable.
Congressman Manish Tewari submitted a detailed dissent note expressing concern over the exemption granted to government agencies. He stressed that this constituted a violation of the fundamental right to privacy.
Other issues Tewari pointed out in his dissent note relate to the definition of a child in section 3 (8) accessing different categories of content and data on the Internet. He also suggested that in the event of surveillance, in accordance with Article 3 (23), of an individual by a government agency, the authorization of a court should be made mandatory.
Tewari also stressed that social media intermediaries should be required to verify the identity of their followers. He also said that anyone should have the right to file a first information report against such an intermediary for not doing so, and also made suggestions on the composition of the judiciary and other bodies dealing with the violation. of data protection law.