The Indian government has no plans to replace the current data protection bill with a new draft, Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw said in a PTI interview. Deliberations are underway over various aspects of the bill and the government aims to receive the Parliament’s approval by the monsoon session, he revealed.
Vaishnaw said that the consultations were comprehensive and the Joint Parliamentary Committee’s report, which was tabled in December, was a “comprehensive report”. However, there are matters which need to be resolved before the bill is promulgated into a law, he admitted.
“I think we should be able to resolve them very soon and bring it…our target was actually this budget session itself,” Vaishnaw told PTI.
The Data Protection Bill 2021 presented in the JPC report is a landmark legislation which will govern the use of data in India. Ashwini Vaishnaw’s comments shed light on a timeline that the government has laid out to bring the law into force. They also categorically discredit speculations that the government is working on a new draft.
Key takeaways from IT Minister’s interview
Implementation needs to be smooth: The IT minister told PTI that some stakeholders were concerned about the implementation structure of the bill. Vaishnaw clarified that the draft will need to be tweaked to ensure the implementation is without any obstacles.
- Taking the IT industry into confidence: Vaishnaw said that the government is going to make sure that there is no adverse impact of the legislation on any sector, especially the IT sector which provides jobs to lakhs of people.
Concerns among social media companies: Vaishnaw said that the companies are perturbed over a new set of compliances, and suggested that the mechanism for it should be digital to reduce friction. He added that the government is focusing on accomplishing the same. He may have been referring to the comments made by Facebook and Twitter in which they shared their concerns, albeit in an indirect manner, about the impact the bill may have on their business in recent regulatory filings with the SEC.
Undecided over non-personal data: The IT minister told PTI that the government is considering whether new legislation will be appropriate for certain things that the JPC suggested should be included in the bill, as per PTI. Vaishnaw may be hinting that the government is unsure of whether to include non-personal data in this data protection law. The JPC report calls for non-personal data to be included in the bill itself whereas the Kris Gopalakrishnan committee has recommended that the government come up with a new bill altogether. It remains to be seen which way the government leans when it comes to regulating non-personal data.
Global data laws are stricter than India’s: When asked about the clause pertaining to government exemptions, Vaishnaw told PTI that the exemptions to the state are more broad globally than in India’s draft. He said that some countries’ laws have given the state a carte blanche which can be exercised without reasons. Vaishnaw said that EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provisions lists nine areas of exemption for government whereas India’s legislation only mentions four. He contended that the bill was a fair construct and to suggest that the government was evading accountability is “unfair and uninformed”.
Understanding the JPC’s report on Data Protection Bill
The JPC report on the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill 2019 was tabled in both houses of the Parliament on December 16 last year. The Bill was focused on the protection of personal data of individuals and proposed establishing a Data Protection Authority. Later, it was referred to the Joint Committee for further scrutiny on the demand of opposition members.
MediaNama has covered all important aspects of the Data Protection Bill 2021:
Powers of the Government | Data Protection Authority | Data Localization | Data Breaches | Data Fiduciaries | Data Protection Officers | Children’s Data | Rights of Individuals | Non-Personal Data
The JPC was not unanimous in its recommendations as is clear from the dissent notes included in the report by several MPs like Amar Patnaik, Derek O’Brien, Mahua Moitra, and Ritesh Pandey, among several others.
A complete guide to the Data Protection Bill 2021 can be found here.
Timeline of the bill’s progress
- July 2018: The PDP Bill is first drafted by an expert committee headed by Justice BN Srikrishna.
- October 2018: Subsequently, the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology says that it will be drafting the bill.
- December 2019: The bill is referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee and BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi is appointed chairperson.
- September 2020: The committee requests and obtains an extension of time for the presentation of their report.
- December 2020: The committee undertakes a clause-by-clause review of the bill.
- March 2021: Once again, the committee requests and obtains an extension of time for the presentation of their report.
- July 2021: The Lok Sabha Speaker rules out any further extension for submission of the report.
- July 2021: PP Chaudhary is appointed as the new chairperson of the JPC after Meenakshi Lekhi gets elevated to a minister in the Union Cabinet.
- July 2021: Committee is granted extension to present report in Winter Session.
- November 2021: Committee holds meeting to discuss consideration and adoption of its draft report.
- December 2021: Report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee is tabled in the Parliament.
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