Data protection bill structure gives overriding veto to govt : Cong MP

Times of india, January 18, 2022

The data protection bill has been structured in a manner to give overriding power to the government and make the Data Protection Authority binding to the directions of the government, Congress Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari said on Tuesday. His views during a panel discussion organised by industry bodies CUTS, CCAOI and Internet Society were supported by BJD Rajya Sabha MP Amar Patnaik.
“Fundamentally, the manner in which the bill has been structured, it gives an overriding veto to the government. I think there is a particular section towards the end of the bill which says that the data protection authority would be bound by the direction of the government,” Tewari said.

Patnaik cited the sections linked to the issue raised by Tewari.

“It says that what is public policy will be determined by the government and it will be binding on the Data Protection Authority (DPA)…,” Patnaik said.

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The draft personal data protection bill described DPA will be responsible to handle the affairs related to the implementation of the bill, handle grievances and adjudicate on the data related issues.
Tewari said that as per the structure of the bill, the government directions to the DPA goes beyond narrow remit of the policy which essentially says that the government will lay down the writ what DPA will do and what DPA will not do.

“It essentially takes away the independence of the regulator completely. I don’t think this is going to stand the test of legal scrutiny,” Tewari said.

He alleged that the draft bill tabled in Parliament was not based on recommendations of retired Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna who led the committee for developing the draft of the personal data protection (PDP) bill.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee report on the Data Protection Bill was tabled in both Houses of Parliament during the winter session.

“This is no longer a personal data protection bill. It is a Data Protection Bill,” Tewari said.

He claimed that the bill in present form will not be able to qualify legal scrutiny.

Tewari said that the bill has laid down certain general principles but its implementation is going to be a “nightmare”.

He said that there are a lot of things on the internet which should not be accessible to children but there should be no age stipulation for children friendly websites.

“Does it (the bill) really measure up on the touchstone of the ‘Right to Privacy’ judgment which is 9 judge bench judgment of the Supreme Court. The more I think about it, the more I find that the bill as it is currently structured may not be found to be constitutional. That is one aspect which the government is not prepared to consider,” Tewari said.

Patnaik, who has submitted dissent note against the bill, said that citizen will be running to the court to enforce their rights against the states and their agency but the wordings in the bill that the ‘Centre government may decide’ or “as may be prescribed by the central government” are leaving it to the “whims and fancies” of the central government which makes the entire structure very unstable. 

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