During the first meeting of the Joint Select Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, Parliament members asked the government to present more details on the fundamental right to privacy in juxtaposition with the Bill, it was learnt.
In the two-hour-long meeting on Thursday, the MPs also asked government officials to present comparisons between the data Bill, Justice B N Srikrishna committee’s draft, and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Secretaries and Additional Secretaries from the Law Ministry, Information Technology Ministry and the Legislative Branch briefed the panel members.
It was learnt that the MPs decided to publish a public advertisement in a week seeking suggestions on the Bill. The deadline for comments will be in three weeks, and the committee will meet again in a month. Some members called for specific experts to depose in front of the committee, including Justice Srikrishna.
Commonly referred to as the “privacy Bill”, the Personal Data Protection Bill gives the government discretion to authorise the transfer of certain types of personal data overseas and has given broad exceptions that allow government agencies to collect personal and sensitive data of citizens.
An earlier draft of the Bill, prepared by the Justice Srikrishna committee, had provided exemptions to the government for collecting such data for security, criminal investigations and crime prevention. It had, however, stipulated that these exceptions be authorised by a separate law and data be collected only if it is “necessary for, and proportionate to” the government’s interests.
The IT Ministry’s Bill does not include any of these limitations on exemptions to government agencies. Instead, it states that the Centre can allow any agency to process such personal data so long as it is “satisfied that it is necessary or expedient” for purposes such as “preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence”.