Digital

Activists Ask Committee Looking Into Data Protection Framework to Be More Transparent

After being denied information requested through an RTI, activists have written to panel chairperson Justice B.B. Srikrishna demanding access to details on meetings held.

The text of the draft Data Protection Bill, circulated by the ministry and being considered by the committee, is also not publicly available. Credit: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski

The text of the draft Data Protection Bill, circulated by the ministry and being considered by the committee, is also not publicly available. Credit: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski

New Delhi: With the committee of experts looking into a data protection framework for India refusing to divulge basic information about its meetings, the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) has written to its chairperson, Justice B.B. Srikrishna, to protest.

The letter, sent by NCPRI yesterday and signed by civil rights activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey, Venkatesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Shaikh Ghulam Rasool and Pankti Jog, drew Justice Srikrishna’s attention to the fact that access to information on the meeting has been denied under the RTI law by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

When Bhardwaj filed an application on December 2, 2017 seeking information on each meeting of the committee of experts – including the date of each meeting, a copy of the agenda with all records and material circulated, copy of all documents or records provided to the committee, copy of the minutes and names and designation of persons who attended – she received a reply from the ministry stating that “this information currently is not in public domain”.

The text of the draft Data Protection Bill, circulated by the ministry and being considered by the committee, is also not publicly available.

“Information about the dates of the meetings, the agenda of the meetings and most importantly the minutes of the meetings is not available in the public domain. In fact, information on the functioning of the committee is also not being provided under the RTI Act,” the Campaign said in a statement.


Also read: Until It Shines Light on Nature of Mass Surveillance, India’s Data Protection Committee Will Fail To Do its Job


It said denial of information by the ministry was in violation of the RTI Act as there is no legal provision to deny information merely because it is not in the public domain. “Information can only be denied if it is exempt under section 8 or 9 of the RTI law. While we are following the formal channels of appeal under the RTI Act, we request you to kindly take steps to ensure that information about the functioning of the committee is placed in the public domain,” the letter said.

Making a mention of the note presented by the attorney general to the Supreme Court in the ongoing cases related to Aadhaar, the NCPRI said it appeared that the committee was in possession of and considering a draft Data Protection Bill circulated by the the ministry. Since this draft Bill was also not available in the public domain, it urged the committee chief to make it public.

The Campaign said since the work of the committee of experts was “crucial to ensure that a well thought out and widely debated framework for data protection is created for India”, transparency in its functioning will “boost public trust in this pre-legislative mechanism and will encourage people to engage with the issue of data protection”.