New Delhi: Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra on Thursday criticised the delay in the introduction of the Personal Data Protection Bill and asked whether the tech industry lobby was “putting pressure” on the Narendra Modi government to stall it.
The first draft of the Bill was submitted by the Justice B.N. Srikrishna committee in July 2018, after which a round of public consultations took place. By the time a final version was put together, the 2019 general elections had been looming and the government did not introduce it in the last Winter session.
It was widely expected that the data protection legislation would be passed in the current Budget session of the parliament.
However, just last week, The Economic Times reported that the Centre was considering watering down several provisions of the Bill, specifically those sections related to data localisation and corporate liability.
The Wire has learned that there may also be another round of consultations in the offing to help bridge divergent views across the government and private sector.
In the zero hour session in parliament on Thursday, Moitra called out the government for promising to introduce a comprehensive Data Protection Bill and failing to do so.
“This government had assured us of a comprehensive Data Protection Bill. The Aadhaar judgement which the Supreme Court had passed had issued a virtual mandamus to this government to bring in a data protection law. You had assured us of a comprehensive Data Protection Bill which has not come,” she said.
The TMC MP also questioned whether “basic conflict of interest” amongst private consultants and lawyers who had drafted the bill had been taken into consideration.
“I also want to bring up the fact that we have got to know that there are empanelled lawyers with various ministries, including the Ministry of IT and the Ministry of Justice, who may have private clients in the field of technology.
Hence there is a basic conflict of interest here. If a lawyer or a business consultant is working on the draft of the Data Protection Bill and who, on the other hand, has private clients in the field of technology, how can we be assured that the interest of these private clients are not being brought into the legislative draft of the Bill? We need to have complete transparency on this.”
In the last two years, a debate has raged over the influence that private thinktanks have had over drafting and formulating key technology legislation in India.
— All India Trinamool Congress (@AITCofficial) August 1, 2019
In her zero hour speech, Moitra asked for more transparency on this front, calling upon the government to “make public” all the “empanelled lawyers who are helping with drafting of the legislation” and their private clients in the technology space.
“Is it [the delay] due to the vested interests of some particular technology companies that are putting pressure on the government via empanelled law firms? This is my question,” the TMC MP asked.