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NEW DELHI: The Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP) deliberating on India’s Personal Data Protection (PDP) bill was given its fifth extension to submit its report on the bill on Friday. The JCP is now expected to submit the report in the first week of the Winter Session, which usually commences around the last week of November.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister P.P. Chaudhary, who was appointed as the chairperson of the JCP on Thursday, moved a motion seeking the extension. “That this House do extend up to the first week of Winter session of Parliament, 2021, the time for the presentation of the report of the Joint Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019," the motion read, and was passed by a voice vote.

The PDP bill was first brought to the Parliament in 2019 and passed on to the JCP for examination at the time. The JCP was chaired by BJP Member of Parliament (MP) Meenakshi Lekhi until earlier this month, when she took oath as the new Minister of State (MoS) for the External Affairs and Culture ministries, as part of the Cabinet reshuffle earlier this month.

Chaudhary, who was the MoS for the Ministry of Law and Justice, Electronics and Information Technology, was appointed in her place since ministers are not allowed to chair Parliamentary Committees.

The PDP bill is landmark legislation meant to regulate how various companies and organizations use individuals’ data inside India. The 2019 draft of the bill proposed the formation of a Data Protection Authority (DPA), which would regulate the use of users’ personal data by social media companies and other organizations within the country. It is also expected to set data localization norms for companies that retain user data.

As reported by Mint in November last year, the bill is expected to undergo “complete transformation" under the JCP. The draft bill proposed in 2019 had been opposed by social media firms, experts and even ministers, who said that it had too many loopholes to be effective and beneficial for both users and companies.

Rajeev Chandrashekhar, who was also appointed as the Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology earlier this month, had also said that the bill in its current form wouldn’t be cleared by the JCP.

“The fact there is a joint parliamentary committee that is sitting and going through the bill and discussing it and we’ve had almost 52 sittings of the committee; it should tell you that the bill in itself is not something that is working. And that the committee is obviously not going to rubber stamp this bill. It is going to redraw the bill," Chandrasekhar said on December 15 last year, while speaking at the Global Technology Summit 2020 organised by Carnegie India.

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