Government Withdraws Personal Data Protection Bill, Plans New Set of Legislations

The withdrawn Bill had, controversially, sought to provide the government with powers to exempt its probe agencies from the provisions of the Act.

Listen to this article:

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday withdrew the Personal Data Protection Bill from the Lok Sabha and said it would come out with a “set of new legislation” that will fit into a ‘comprehensive legal framework’.

IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said this while moving for withdrawal of the Bill in the House, according to news agency PTI.

The withdrawn Bill had proposed restrictions on the use of personal data without the explicit consent of citizens. It had, controversially, also sought to provide the government with powers to exempt its probe agencies from the provisions of the Act, a move that was strongly opposed by opposition MPs who had filed their dissent notes.

The government would hold a wide public consultation before putting the new legislation to parliament, official sources said.

According to PTI, the Bill could be replaced by more than one Bill, dealing with privacy and cyber security and the government may bring the new set of Bills in the winter session of Parliament.

The government circulated among members a statement containing reasons for withdrawal of the Bill, which was introduced on December 11, 2019 and was referred to the Joint Committee of the Houses for examination. The report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JCP) was presented to Lok Sabha in December 2021.

The withdrawal of the Bill was made part of the supplementary agenda of Lok Sabha Wednesday afternoon.

Also read: What the JPC Report on the Data Protection Bill Gets Right and Wrong

According to the statement circulated to Lok Sabha members on August 3, the 2019 Bill was deliberated in great detail by the JCP, which proposed 81 amendments and 12 recommendations for a comprehensive legal framework for the digital ecosystem.

“Considering the report of the JCP, a comprehensive legal framework is being worked upon. Hence, in the circumstances, it is proposed to withdraw ‘The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019’ and present a new Bill that fits into the comprehensive legal framework,” the statement said.

After the Bill was withdrawn, minister of state for IT Rajeev Chandrashekhar tweeted that this will soon be replaced by a comprehensive framework of global standard laws, including digital privacy laws for contemporary and future challenges, and catalyse Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision.

He said the JCP report on the Personal Data Protection Bill had identified many issues that were relevant but beyond the scope of a modern digital privacy law.

“Privacy is a fundamental right of Indian citizens & a Trillion-dollar Digital Economy requires Global std Cyber laws,” he said in another tweet.

The withdrawn Data Protection Bill had also proposed the setting up of a Data Protection Authority.

It had also proposed to specify the flow and usage of personal data, protect the rights of individuals whose personal data are processed, as it works out the framework for the cross-border transfer, accountability of entities processing data, and moots remedies for unauthorised and harmful processing.

According to the Indian Freedom Foundation, India desperately needs a data protection legislation, especially considering the rush in which digital policies are being introduced in the country. However, the Data Protection Bill, 2021, which should empower the user with rights surrounding their own personal information, has failed to prioritise the user. It, instead, benefits the government and large corporations way more than it benefits users.

JPC members welcome decision

Members of the erstwhile JPC on Wednesday welcomed the government’s move to withdraw the legislation, saying it was better to bring a new legislation after more than 80 amendments suggested by the panel.

BJP MP P.P. Chaudhary, chairman of the parliamentary committee, said after so many amendments suggested by the panel, it makes more sense to bring a new legislation which will be comprehensive and will include all suggestions made by the committee.

Echoing similar sentiments, BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, who was also a member of the parliamentary committee, said with the vast number of amendments the Bill required an overhaul and it can be done only by bringing a new law.

(With PTI inputs)