Home >News >India >Parliamentary panel set to discuss data bill over citizen privacy fears
Members of the committee feel that the Personal Data Protection Bill gives overriding powers to the central government, allowing investigative agencies to look into personal data of citizens. (Mint)
Members of the committee feel that the Personal Data Protection Bill gives overriding powers to the central government, allowing investigative agencies to look into personal data of citizens. (Mint)

Parliamentary panel set to discuss data bill over citizen privacy fears

  • The joint panel is set to meet on 27 July to discuss provisions allowing agencies to block messaging apps
  • JPC will look into low conviction rate for cybercrimes, a worry for investigating agencies

NEW DELHI : The joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on the Personal Data Protection Bill is set to meet on Monday to discuss the low conviction rate for cybercrimes and concerns around the bill’s attempt to give overriding powers to the government that would allow any investigative agency to look into the personal data of citizens.

The parliamentary committee has invited representatives of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to the meeting to discuss provisions that empower security agencies to block internet messaging platforms to stop terrorists and people dealing in narcotics.

“The big question before agencies like NIA, NCRB is that while we are talking about data governance, transparency in management of data, the real problem is that not many cases under cybercrime get convicted. If we look at the data provided by NCRB it clearly states that 170 cases were registered in 2017 but there was only one conviction. Similarly, in 2018 there were 97 cases registered under cybercrime but there was only two conviction although 81 people were arrested in these cases," said a member of the JPC.

“We have examples of threats on social media, data being stolen, fake news being promoted and the low rate of conviction remains a challenge for most of the investigating agencies. It has also come to light that even people involved in narcotics could be involved in data theft," the member added.

The Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha in December last year and seeks to establish a Data Protection Authority. Amid concerns from lawmakers over citizens’ right to privacy, it was sent to the joint parliamentary committee. After one extension, the committee has been asked to submit its report by the second week of the monsoon session of Parliament, the dates for which are yet to be announced.

Members of the committee feel another significant question that demands greater explanation from investigating agencies is about sections 35 and 36 which give extraordinary powers to the union government, including authorizing any of the investigating agencies to look into personal data of citizens.

“It is a question of fundamental rights of citizens because in the name of investigation, detection and prevention, the union government cannot allow security agencies to look into the personal data of the people. Most of the members are against these two clauses and this issue would be taken up strongly when it comes for discussion during the meeting," the member added.

The meeting will also look at a request by members and security agencies for the Centre to notify the definition of “critical personal data" in the Bill. “At the moment the data is divided into three categories: general, personal and critical personal. Most of the security agencies have demanded that there should be a clear definition of critical personal data in the Bill," the member quoted above added.

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