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Amid concerns from lawmakers over citizens’ right to privacy, the bill which was introduced in Parliament last December, was referred to a JPC headed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi. (Mint)
Amid concerns from lawmakers over citizens’ right to privacy, the bill which was introduced in Parliament last December, was referred to a JPC headed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi. (Mint)

Nothing ‘personal’ about Data Protection Bill as JPC proposes to expand scope

  • The joint parliamentary committee examining the Personal Data Protection Bill will propose to expand its scope to focus on overall data protection
  • Apart from personal data, the Bill will also include non-personal data with sub-heads about sensitive data and critical data

NEW DELHI: The crucial Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill is likely to undergo a complete overhaul. Members of the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) scrutinizing the bill are of the view that its scope should be expanded from focus on personal data to encompass overall data protection.

During the ongoing clause-by-clause discussion of the Bill, a report on which could be submitted before the winter session of Parliament, members of the JPC believe that the Bill would now focus more on data, localisation of data and digitisation of data while personal data will only be part of the crucial Bill.

“The Personal Data Protection Bill is likely to undergo a complete transformation as the intent of the Bill is likely to get changed. Most of the members of JPC are of the view that the ambit of the Bill needs to be expanded and it cannot just be about personal data. JPC members are unanimous that PDP Bill should be about data and protection of data," said a person in the know of development.

Members of the JPC are of the opinion that the purpose of the Bill is being redefined clearly and apart from personal data, the Bill will also include non-personal data with sub-heads about sensitive data and critical data.

“JPC is unanimous in its decision that purpose of the Bill should be redefined and more clearly defined. Some members feel that earlier the Bill was a little vague and needed improvement. Now the focus is on data, not just personal but also non-personal, sensitive and critical data as well," said a person in the know of development.

The original focus of the draft bill, tabled in Parliament last year, can be gauged from the fact at least a fifth of the total 98 clauses have the words “personal data" mentioned in their title. In the draft bill, four chapters are dedicated to explaining the ambit of personal data namely those on obligations of data fiduciary, grounds of processing of personal data without consent, personal data and sensitive personal data of children as well as one on restriction of transfer on personal data outside India.

Members of JPC are likely to hold a series of meetings in this week and would hold at least three sittings of the parliamentary panel to complete work on the Bill. JPC members also believe that one of the biggest concerns for all the 30-members is about localisation of data because a lot of data that is collected from India is stored outside the country and there is very little control on the data.

“The biggest concern before the committee now is localisation of data because some of the representatives of companies and organisations that have been invited before the JPC have informed the parliamentary panel most of the social media platforms store data beyond the boundaries of India. So in case of any investigations, it will be difficult to retrieve the data for investigation purposes," said the person in the know of development.

JPC members believe that even as deliberations are taking place in the parliamentary panel, the process of building consensus is also taking shape and most of the political parties like Congress, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Samajwadi Party (SP) are also supporting the changes being discussed and recommended by the committee.

“There is unanimity on most of the issues and so far there is no cause of concern about unanimity. Most of the members of the panel believe that it is an important [issue] which will impact the security of the country and people so there should be discussion. There have been recommendations about inviting more people before the panel so it is possible that the committee would invite representatives of more companies that collect and store data," said those in the know about the developments.

The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha last December and seeks to protect the privacy of individuals relating to their personal data. It also calls for setting up of a Data Protection Authority of India and aims at creating a framework for organizational and technical measures for processing of data. Amid concerns from lawmakers over citizens’ right to privacy, the bill was referred to the JPC headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Meenakshi Lekhi.

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