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JPC on data protection Bill holds final talks; draft likely to receive support

According to people aware of developments, several meetings of the Joint Parliamentery Committee on PDP Bill, particularly after the outbreak of covid-19 earlier this year, have not seen high attendance from non-NDA members (Mint)Premium
According to people aware of developments, several meetings of the Joint Parliamentery Committee on PDP Bill, particularly after the outbreak of covid-19 earlier this year, have not seen high attendance from non-NDA members (Mint)

  • The 30-member committee has completed discussing more than 50 of the total 98 clauses in the Bill
  • The JPC on PDP Bill is expected to submit its recommendations to the Parliament before the start of the next session of the House

The joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill is holding hectic deliberations to firm up its stand on key clauses within the legislation as the process is in its home stretch. The draft recommendations are likely to get support owing to the lack of unity among members from Opposition parties in the panel and a growing support for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on the Bill.

The 30-member committee has completed discussing more than 50 of the total 98 clauses in the Bill. Support form the Bill has come from Samajwadi Party (SP), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and also Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) while the only strong stream of opposition is from the two members of the Trinamool Congress and from members of the Congress party in the panel.

“We have completed discussing more than 50 of the 98 clauses and there has been no opposition in these discussions. All the clauses have so far been so far unanimously adopted and have been sent for drafting. None of the members of the opposition parties who has been attending these meetings has moved any amendment so far," said a member of the JPC on the condition of anonymity.

The JPC on PDP Bill is expected to submit its recommendations to the Parliament before the start of the next session of the House. Members of the committee have demanded that there should be greater discussion and representatives of different sectors should be invited for greater discussion on the Bill. The committee has now invited CYBLE, PayPal Payments, Mastercard India Services, iSPRIT Foundation, Visa Consolidated Supported Services for discussion in its next meetings.

“There was a discussion among the members about inviting more representatives before the committee. There were suggestions about who and which companies should be invited. While we are debating on the contours of the Bill, more representation would take place before the committee," said a person in the know of the development.

Key concerns that Opposition parties have flagged during deliberations include those regarding clauses on data localization, Union government’s powers to access data by asking data fiduciaries to provide either non-personal data or anonymized personal data for better targeting of schemes, need for the selection committee for data protection authority to go beyond only government officials and over a clause which lists down conditions for transfer of sensitive personal data and critical personal data outside the country.

“For a Bill that was unanimously opposed by all key Opposition parties in both the Houses of Parliament, the lack of coordination among the Opposition and non-NDA members in the committee is stark. Individual members are raising concerns, but it is limited to that. Up until now, no pressure is being exerted on the ruling party to get some of our key demands accepted," another person aware of developments said requesting anonymity.

According to people aware of developments, several meetings of the committee, particularly after the outbreak of covid-19 earlier this year, have not seen high attendance from non-NDA members. “With the exception of some Congress members who have regularly attended the proceedings and raised questions, the meetings have not seen very high attendance from non-NDA members. One reason could be precautions around covid-19; but almost all committees have been holding physical meetings for months now," a third person aware of developments said requesting anonymity.

The hectic deliberations of the committee can be gauged from the fact that since parliamentary panels resumed meetings after a brief gap owing to the covid-led national lockdown, the JPC has held 26 sittings in the last four months beginning July end. While last week it held several rounds of meetings involving clause by clause discussion, this week it is scheduled to meet again to hear representation from related organizations.

The PDP Bill, 2019, was introduced in the Lok Sabha last December and seeks to protect the privacy of individuals relating to their personal data, focuses on creating a framework for organizational and technical measures in processing of data, and calls for setting up of a Data Protection Authority of India. It was referred to the joint parliamentary committee amid concerns from lawmakers over citizens’ right to privacy, including concerns over snooping flagged by lawmakers.

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