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Data Protection Bill: Joint Parliamentary Committee adopts draft report; Congress MPs file dissent notes

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The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 (PDP) on Monday finalised and adopted its draft report on the Bill after two years of deliberation.

Data Protection Bill: Joint Parliamentary Committee adopts draft report; Congress MPs file dissent notes
The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 (PDP) on Monday finalised and adopted its draft report on the Bill after two years of deliberation.
The draft report with recommendations is now likely to be placed before the Speaker of Lok Sabha during the winter session of Parliament.
The report was delayed by the panel as its former chairperson Meenakshi Lekhi was elevated a minister and a new chairperson of the committee was appointed. The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was referred to the Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP) for scrutiny before it was taken up by Parliament for consideration and passage.
The Bill provides for sensitive personal data to be stored in India and also obligates data fiduciaries to deploy safeguards and a grievance redressal mechanism. It prescribes the rights of individuals with respect to data fiduciaries, including the right to withdraw consent.
The Bill provides for a Data Protection Authority mandated to protect individual rights, ensure compliance. Moreover, it provides for penalties of upto 4 percent of annual turnover in certain cases of violations.
According to the bill, the government will be exempt in cases of national security and public order.
However, Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh and Manish Tewari have submitted dissent notes over the bill allowing the exemption to the government.
According to the Congress leaders’ dissent notes, the PDP Bill assumes that the right to privacy arises only with respect to the private sector and treats the government and related entities as privileged classes, whose actions are always in public interest.
“Section 35 gives unbridled powers to Centre to exempt any government agency from compliance,” they said, adding that they had proposed amendment to seek parliamentary sanction before exempting government entities.
They contested that the proposed amendments allow the Centre to exempt government entities only under a law passed by Parliament.
Ramesh added that Section 12, which covers non-consensual processing of data by the government, should have been made “less sweeping”.
He has in his dissent note said that the JCP's report allows a period of two years for private companies to migrate to the new data protection regime, but governments and government agencies have no such stipulation. He argued that the design of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 assumes that the constitutional right to privacy arises only where operations and activities of private companies are concerned.
The former Union minister, however, lauded the democratic manner in which the committee functioned under the chairmanship of PP Chaudhuri for the past four months.
(With PTI inputs)
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