The Union government's new data protection bill, which is expected to be tabled in the winter session of the Parliament, has received widespread backlash, with members of the Opposition calling it "Orwellian" in nature.
The joint parliamentary committee (JPC) that was reviewing the Personal Data Protection Bill finalised its report on Monday, 22 November, after nearly two years of examination, as per Hindustan Times.
The bill provides for more stringent compliance requirements from social media companies, and widens the jurisdiction of the law to include non-personal data.
Key Proposals of the Personal Data Protection Bill
The Personal Data Protection Bill provides for the treatment of all social media platforms (which do not act as intermediaries) as publishers. This would mean that the platforms will be held accountable by the government for the content that is posted on them.
The social media intermediaries will be re-designated as social media platforms for this purpose, the bill proposes, as per The Indian Express.
The JPC has also recommended the bringing of data collection by electronic hardware under the legislation, The Indian Express has learnt.
The committee, headed by PP Chaudhary, has also recommended that companies report data leak, if it occurs, to the government within 72 hours. The government should be permitted to carry out an in-house inquiry in case of a data breach, the panel has suggested, Hindustan Times has learnt from sources.
'Bill Gives Unbridled Power to Govt': Opposition Demurs
Seven Opposition leaders have submitted dissent notes to the JPC with reference to the Centre's data protection bill, as per news agency PTI.
These include the Congress's Jairam Ramesh, Manish Tewari, Gaurav Gogoi, and Vivek Tankha. Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien and Mahua Moitra, as well as Biju Janata Dal's Amar Patnaik, have also articulated their dissent before the committee.
“Section 35 gives unbridled powers to the central government to exempt any agency from the entire Act itself. Under the amendment, I had suggested that the central government will have to get Parliamentary approval for exempting any of its agencies from the purview of the law. Even then, the government must always comply with the Bill’s requirement of fair and reasonable processing and implementing the necessary security safeguards,” said former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, in his dissent note.
Meanwhile, the TMC MPs have described the bill as "Orwellian," and have raised concerns over the functioning of the JPC. They have also objected to the committee's recommendation for inclusion of non-personal data within the law, PTI reported.
“A Bill that seeks therefore to provide blanket exemptions either in perpetuity or even for a limited period to the state’ and its instrumentalities, in my estimation is ultra vires of the Fundamental Right to Privacy as laid down by a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court of in Puttuswamy case,” Congress leader Manish Tewari said in his note, as per Hindu Business Line.
(With inputs from PTI, The Indian Express, Hindustan Times, and Hindu Business Line.)