The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Data Protection has found a middle ground on the contentious clause, which in the name of “sovereignty”, “friendly relations with foreign states” and “security of the state”, allows any agency under the Union government exemption from all or any provisions of the law. More than 10 MPs in the panel had objected to the clause, saying that it made the entire Act infructuous.
In past deliberations, Congress MPs Jairam Ramesh, Manish Tewari and Gaurav Gogoi; Trinamool Congress MPs Derek O’ Brien and Mahua Moitra; Biju Janata Dal MP Bharatuhari Mahtab and Amar Patnaik; Bahujan Samaj Party MP Ritesh Pandey; Shiv Sena MP Shrikant Eknath Shinde; and Bharatiya Janata Party MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar had moved amendments to this contentious Clause 35 of the legislation. Since then, Mr. Chandrasekhar has been promoted to Minister of State and is no longer a member of the committee. Mr. Shinde had argued for entirely deleting the clause since he said that it could be “subject to abuse”.
Invoking “sovereignty and integrity of India”, “public order”, “friendly relations with foreign states” and “security of the state”, the legislation gives powers to the Central government to suspend all or any of the provisions of the Act for government agencies.
Sources said that the committee has largely agreed that the clause needs to be appropriately amended. The members demanded that the conditions for making the exemptions should be clearly laid down without leaving scope for interpretation. No other details of how it will be worded to avoid a possible abuse was forthcoming.
In a day-long meeting on Wednesday, the committee deliberated on close to 55 clauses and is nearly half-way through the Bill. The report on the Bill is long overdue. The Bill that seeks to provide protection of personal data of individuals was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2019 and soon after referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee. It got its fifth extension in the monsoon session of Parliament in July this year and has now been asked to submit the report by the winter session of that is expected to be called in the third week of November.