The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023, was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, after most Opposition MPs staged a walkout. The Bill was supported by Members of Parliament from the NDA, the Biju Janata Dal and the YSR Congress Party.
The Bill sets out norms for data processing digitally for firms, creates an adjudicatory mechanism for resolving disputes, and provides for the creation of a Data Protection Board of India. Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw said that these provisions would be put into motion over the coming six to ten months, although it may happen faster than that.
The Bill has been criticised for the breadth of exemptions it gives the Union government — all instrumentalities of the State are largely exempted from requirements, raising surveillance fears. Private industry players have praised the Bill for reducing stringent requirements on firms that were present in earlier drafts.
BJD MP Amar Patnaik largely supported the Bill, but pointed out that it did not refer to “informational privacy”, a term he said was prominently featured in the 2017 K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India Supreme Court judgement that prompted the drafting of a data protection legislation.
“The Bill, instead of protecting the right to privacy of Indian citizens, prioritises putting into place a regime that facilitates the processing of personal data by state and private actors,” the Internet Freedom Foundation said in a statement shortly after its passing. “We are disappointed with the version of the Bill that may ultimately become India’s data protection legislation.”
YSRCP MP S. Niranjan Reddy said, “The power which has been granted of exempting the government [from the Bill’s provisions] is a little sweeping.” He said that there was potential for misuse. He welcomed Mr. Vaishnaw’s reassurance that “no part of the Puttaswamy ruling or the right to privacy as a fundamental right will be breached.”