New Delhi: A committee headed by retired Delhi high court judge Ajit P. Shah will submit its report on the contentious Privacy Bill by June-end after a three-month delay.

Detailed examination: Ajit P. Shah (left), and Som Mittal. Photos: HT, Hemant Mishra/Mint

Its members have been drawn from the private sector and ministries including the department of information technology, ministry of home affairs, department of telecommunication, law ministry and the department of personnel and training, or DoPT, which drafted the Bill.

“There were some procedural delays but we are meeting soon to start the proceedings. We have to give our recommendations by June," Shah said.

The panel was formed after differences surfaced over the Privacy Bill between various ministries and concerns were voiced by civil rights activists about the impact of some government initiatives on the individual’s right to privacy.

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Mint’s Sahil Makkar says the government panel studying the Privacy Bill will meet soon and make its recommendations by the end of June.

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The move to enact a privacy law came against the backdrop of Aadhaar, the project to provide unique identity numbers to all residents of the country, and the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), which will assist investigators in obtaining information tracked by 11 law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The agencies will have access to details of phone calls, credit card transactions, visa and immigration records, property records and driving licences of all citizens.

Rights activists warned that information collected by Aadhaar, a project headed by Infosys Ltd co-founder Nandan Nilekani, and Natgrid could compromise individual privacy. The home ministry wanted to keep law enforcement agencies out of the purview of the proposed Bill.

“Privacy is a very complex issue and ground realities in India are different from other countries," said Shah, who also heads the Indian Broadcasting Foundation. “It is very difficult to frame privacy laws in India."

The committee has been divided into two sub-groups, one headed by Shah and the other by Som Mittal, president of the information technology industry lobby Nasscom. The sub-groups have been asked to study privacy requirements in India and privacy laws abroad.

“Many issues are related to cyber privacy. That is why Nasscom has been involved," Mittal said.

Officials in the Planning Commission said the Shah committee will take a call on the draft Bill prepared by the DoPT. Its recommendations could even become the basis for a second draft of the proposed law.

After the leakage of taped conversations among corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, business leaders and journalists, the government expanded the scope of the Bill to include provisions on lawful interception, surveillance and illegal commercial communication.

“Now there is a clamour about Google’s new privacy policy and there are requirements of law enforcement agencies," said a member of the Shah panel who didn’t want to be named. “We also need to check what is going on the Internet. The panel will take a holistic approach towards the entire issue."

Google Inc. has integrated its privacy policy across services such as Gmail, Google Search and YouTube, allowing them to share data.

sahil.m@livemint.com

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