After tasting success in the campaign to push back the ‘Free Basics’ launched by Facebook, where a threat to the idea of a free and level playing field was perceived, a group of young lawyers is set to unveil a new Data Privacy Draft Bill on Friday. This is part of a new ‘Save Our Privacy’ campaign which will be launched on Friday.
Supported by the Internet Freedom Foundation, ‘Save Our Privacy’ is a community focussed campaign that argues for a citizens’ law drafted by several lawyers namely Apar Gupta, Gautam Bhatia, Kritika Bhardwaj, Maansi Verma, Naman M Aggarwal, Praavita Kashyap, Prasanna S, Raman Jit Singh Chima, Ujwala Uppaluri and Vrinda Bhandari who have worked on the Aadhaar case.
These lawyers were associated with the hearings on privacy that continued for months before a Constitution bench last year and resulted in a landmark Supreme Court judgment, which unanimously upheld privacy as a fundamental right. They have now drafted a Code, which tests itself on seven essential privacy principles flowing from the Supreme Court verdict.
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The draft Bill is to be shared with the Justice Srikrishna-led Committee on the data privacy law. The Committee, which was set up by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology last July, is “hoping to” make public its conclusions and the draft on June 11, sources said. The Committee has been organising several public hearings since January in several cities across India. After being rebuffed by the Supreme Court, the Centre back-pedalled furiously citing this committee as cover for data protection, to counter criticism that the idea of a mandatory Aadhaar violated privacy.
The draft bill, termed the Privacy Code, envisages a penalty of up to Rs 1 crore for the violation of privacy of citizens and a prison sentence of up to three years. It speaks against surveillance of citizens and provides for penalty for anyone found to be performing surveillance unlawfully, with a prison term of upto five years. Not just the government, the code deals with companies in violation of the law to be penalised for transgression. Those who led a successful bid to drive home the point that India must bat for ‘Net Neutrality’ say that recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Google and the more recent GDSPR, or the new Privacy Protection Law which came into force this month in Europe, have played their part in awakening people to widespread ramifications of damage that violation of data privacy of individuals can have.
Gautam Bhatia highlighted the need for a push from citizens despite the government saying that it was going to bring in a law. “The mandate of the Srikrishna Committee is limited to data protection. But we believe that a piecemeal approach to issues that are fundamentally interconnected – data protection, privacy, surveillance reform, the right to information, and many more – may not be ideal. We have attempted to draft a comprehensive Citizens’ Privacy Code that places the individual at its heart, and carries forward the Supreme Court’s remarkable privacy judgment. We also want to make it thoroughly inclusive – the draft code is online, and any person who wishes can comment on it, and on every clause.”
“India has reached its privacy moment”, said lawyer Apar Gupta. “Every week we see a new controversy and realise that personal data controls our life. One credible solution on this is to engage the public on a policy solution such as data protection law. To make this a public movement we have simplified a nuanced law to seven core principles. We will rely on a wider community of activists and public advocacy to make sure an intersectional issue such as privacy has several leaders and public spokespersons.”
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