Data bill: A right call by the govt

Updated on Aug 04, 2022 06:41 PM IST
While the fact that India doesn’t have a base law is a problem, undue haste can lead to more problems
As technology evolves, so will its applications and the legal doctrines that seek to combat the harms and abuses. India has done well to hold wide-ranging stakeholder discussions and it is a welcome step that frameworks are not rushed (SHUTTERSTOCK) PREMIUM
As technology evolves, so will its applications and the legal doctrines that seek to combat the harms and abuses. India has done well to hold wide-ranging stakeholder discussions and it is a welcome step that frameworks are not rushed (SHUTTERSTOCK)
ByHT Editorial

The government this week withdrew from Parliament the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, informing Lok Sabha members that a new “comprehensive framework” would be brought in instead. The decision marks yet another pause in the process of drawing up a legislation that has taken over four years now. A comprehensive draft was first drawn up by the independent committee headed by former Supreme Court judge BN Srikrishna, and submitted to the government in 2018. The government’s version of the bill will not be tabled in the House for another year. When introduced in the winter session of 2019, the law became contentious and was sent to a Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP) to examine the issue more closely. Between the pandemic and a change in its structure (required because some members were inducted into the government in 2021), the JCP took two years and six extensions to submit its report.

At each stage, there were issues with the provisions. These contentions were natural because the legislation aims to tackle one of the most profound problems today: How to protect privacy in the age of information. In the case of the most recent work on the law, these discussions yielded suggestions that were far removed from what the Srikrishna version and even the government’s approach envisioned. Some of these were, in fact, issues with implications for an increasingly digital economy and cyber security. For these to be tackled on their own, as officials suggested on Wednesday, is sensible. Nations that updated their laws to be in step with today have multiple pieces of legislation, such as the European Union’s privacy-focussed General Data Protection Regulation, its intermediary-focused Digital Services Act, and its mainstay e-commerce regulation, the Digital Markets Act. India may well need multiple laws, as the government has indicated.

As technology evolves, so will its applications and the legal doctrines that seek to combat the harms and abuses. India has done well to hold wide-ranging stakeholder discussions and it is a welcome step that frameworks are not rushed. Haste can lead to legitimate concerns being unaddressed. But that the country does not yet have even a base law is a problem. The starkness is best captured in the fact that on August 24, it will have been five years since the Supreme Court’s Puttaswamy ruling that held privacy to be a fundamental right. It is about time that India creates a statutory framework to support that right.

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Thursday, August 11, 2022
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