Home >Politics >Policy >Aligning laws with new data protection norms may not be easy

New Delhi: With around 50 statutes and regulations being identified by the Srikrishna committee which have a potential overlap with the proposed data protection law, the process of amending these to operate in tandem with the new over-arching law will be a complex process and the committee has not laid out the detailed process for doing so, privacy experts said.

A high-level expert group headed by former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna submitted its report along with a draft bill titled The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 to the Ministry of Information and Technology (MeitY) on Friday.

The 50 laws having potential overlap cover almost all sectors including corporate and financial, health and defence.

“All such laws, however, will have to be applied along with the data protection law, as the latter will be the minimum threshold of safeguards for all data processing in the country. Similarly, the law will operate in tandem with extant legislation. In the event of any inconsistency, it will have overriding effect," said the committee in its report.

Ministries concerned may take note of this and ensure appropriate consultation to make complementary amendments where necessary, the report added.

“When a new law is being introduced, it will have an impact on the older laws. In some cases, a new law simply repeals the old one; for instance, the rules under section 43A of the IT Act will be replaced by the new law and some provisions unrelated to data protection might be retained," said Amber Sinha, lawyer and senior programme manager at Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), a Bengaluru-based think tank engaged in interdisciplinary research on internet and digital technologies.

“The other way is, in the law itself, you do an extensive review of the existing provisions and specify specific provisions of existing laws which will have to be changed or deleted. This exercise hasn’t been done here, apart from the Aadhaar Act," he added.

The 10-member committee constituted by the government in July last year to study various issues relating to data protection has made specific suggestions for amendment of provisions of the Aadhaar Act, the Right to Information(RTI) Act and Information Technology(IT) Act.

However, the provisions of other Acts requiring amendment have not be identified by the committee, which ideally should have been done, said Sinha.

In its report, the expert panel says that the Aadhaar Act needs to be amended significantly to bolster privacy protections and ensure autonomy of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). However, UIDAI does not find a mention anywhere in the Bill. Aadhaar number has been mentioned in the bill as an “official identifier" categorized under “sensitive personal data."

While submitting the report, Srikrishna said matters related to Aadhaar are still under consideration of the Supreme Court and advised people to wait for the judgment.

Vikram Venkateswaran, director, Deloitte India, said it is early to comment as it is a draft bill and the final version is awaited. “The bill gives the data principal the right to correct his data, port his data, the right to be forgotten and the right to access. This will increase the transparency. This may require organizations to invest in re-engineering processes and technology, specifically related to taking consent and for safe storage of the data," he said.

The bill deals with issues such as collection, storage and processing of personal data, consent of individuals, penalties and compensation, code of conduct and an enforcement model.

The draft bill is largely based on the white paper put up for public consultation by the government on 27 November, which was modified after public comments and consultation with the stakeholders.

The bill has also been made public and will need parliamentary approval to become an Act.

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