Bringing the Data Protection Bill, 2019 in Parliament with new provisions, the Centre on Wednesday announced that the draft legislation will "safeguard" the rights of Indians and data will not be taken without their consent.
Union Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad made the announcement in the Lok Sabha while introducing the Bill in the House which will empower the government to ask companies including Facebook, Google and others for anonymised personal and non-personal data.
"By this data protection bill, we (government) are safeguarding the rights of Indians. As per the architecture of the Bill, if data is taken without consent of the individual, you will suffer a penalty," Prasad said.
"The second is, if you misuse the data beyond the permissible consent, you will suffer consequences. And we have kept provision of penalty of crores of rupees on all the persons. Therefore, by this data protection, they are safeguarding the rights of Indian."
The minister said India's digital economy is rising as 121 crore mobile phones are active in a population of 130 crore.
"We gather a lot of data but a lot of data is also important for the development of the economy. We are also making a provision that 'anonymised data' must be available for policy making, for innovation."
Allegations of surveillance
Prasad said that the government has divided data into critical data and sensitive data.
"The critical data is data which the government will notify from time to time. It cannot go out of India at all. Sensitive data involves income, medical records, sexual preferences and many more things. This data can go out of India with the consent of the individual and with the approval of the authority."
Over allegations of surveillance raised by the opposition, the minister said it is "completely wrong, unsustainable, malicious and misleading".
"We (government) are protecting the rights of privacy of citizens and their data. The details cannot be taken without the consent of the citizens, otherwise there is provision of fine in crores of rupees."
"As the subject is sensitive and the whole country is waiting for India's Data Protection Law, we want that this should be discussed in Parliamentary committees."
Prasad said that the government will come up with a proposal on Thursday that a dedicated Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament - Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha - for Data Protection Law consider the Bill.
"Let the Parliamentary process examine it in a detailed manner."
Referring to the opposition's claim that the Supreme Court has held that privacy is a fundamental right of individuals, the minister said that members are right but the court had also pointed out that a corrupt person does not have the right of privacy.
"The SC in Aadhaar case itself had emphasised that we must come with a data protection law. Therefore, there is a mandate of the SC also that we must come with the data protection law," Prasad said.
Legal experts raise concern
The minister clarified that the government did not come up with this Bill suddenly and that it had set up a committee headed by distinguished judge Justice BN Srikrishna before taking the decision.
"They had set up a member committee also. They had the widest consultations in the entire country. At least 2,000 recommendations came. Thereafter the discussions, we have reached here."
The Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) has created quite a buzz since Tuesday after it came to light that the latest version of the Bill seeks to allow the use of personal and non-personal data of users in some cases, especially when national security is involved.
Several legal experts have already red-flagged the issue and said the provision will give the government unaccounted access to personal data of users in the country.It is learnt that the Bill defines personal data as information that can help in the identification of an individual and has characteristics, traits and other features of a person's identity.