Union government rolls back Data Protection Bill

Minister says he will bring in a fresh Bill that fits into comprehensive legal framework on suggestions made by Joint Committee of Parliament

August 03, 2022 05:44 pm | Updated August 04, 2022 01:25 am IST - New Delhi

The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was withdrawn by IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was withdrawn by IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. | Photo Credit: PTI

Union Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Wednesday announced the withdrawal of The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha and stated that the government has decided to come up with a fresh bill that fits into the comprehensive legal framework with reference to the suggestions made by the Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP) on the Bill.

Stating the reasons for withdrawal, the government said that “The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was deliberated in great detail by the Joint Committee of Parliament, 81 amendments were proposed and 12 reccomendations were made towards comprehensive legal framework on digital ecosystem. Considering the report of the JCP, a comprehensive legal framework is being worked upon. Hence, in the circumstances, it is proposed to withdraw The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 and present a new bill that fits into the comprehensive legal framework.”

Also read: Explained | Does data protection Bill have safeguards on privacy?

The Joint Committee of Parliament on the Personal Data Protection Bill had submitted a 542-page report with overall 93 recommendations and 81 amendments to the Bill in December 2021. Apart from that, the panel, headed by former Union Minister and BJP MP, P.P. Chaudhary had recommended about 97 corrections and improvements to the Bill.

Key discussions

The key discussions in the panel were based on whether the proposed Data Protection Authority should get constitutional status and whether States should have their own Data Protection Authorities. The Opposition members had alleged that the penalty provisions on fiduciaries if they breach or process data in an unauthorised manner were watered down despite their objections.

On the decision of the Centre to withdraw the Bill, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh told The Hindu that there was pressure from the United States against the report of the Joint Select Committee. He said big tech companies will be very happy with the Centre’s decision. “Both Ashwini Vaishnaw and Rajeev Chandrasekhar [the Ministers for Telecommunications and IT] were members of the Joint Committee. They are now Ministers. Perhaps their views have changed,” Mr. Ramesh, who was also a member of the panel, said.

‘Bill should come early’

Senior BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab, who was also a member of the panel, said the Minister said the Centre is going to bring back a new Bill. “The Bill had more than 75 amendments. The government had also moved around 12 amendments. Instead of moving all those amendments, it is better to have a new Bill. But it should come early. We need to have a data protection law. It should not be delayed,” Mr. Mahtab said and added that the position of the government on the recommendations and amendments of the panel will be known only when it brings a new Bill.

Another member of the panel, Biju Janata Dal in the Rajya Sabha, Amar Patnaik, welcomed the withdrawal of the Bill in its existing form but hoped that the new bill which will be brought in would take into account the concerns of the JCP. “There were 81 amendments, in a bill of 99 sections and I had also filed a dissent note even after the amendments stating that there should be State-level Data Protection Authorities. I support the withdrawal of the Bill in its existing form and hope that the revised bill would take into account our concerns,” he told The Hindu.

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