Data protection bill: Prasad, panel members spar over draft report
Union minister for electronics and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday clarified that the joint parliamentary committee examining the personal data protection bill is yet to submit its report, hours after Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that panel members were yet to see a draft.
Ramesh’s comment was in response to Prasad’s comments, quoted in The Hindu that “the select committee has given their report and have done a good job; Covid-permitting, in the next session I will like to push it”.
“I am amazed. On March 8th I had been assured by Mrs Meenakshi Lekhi the Chairperson that the draft report will be circulated for comments by members. That is still awaited,” Ramesh said in response.
Prasad then clarified that the report was yet to be finalised. “I appreciate their (the committee’s) hard work. I look forward to their final report so that the Parliament approves a Data Protection Law soon.”
Ramesh’s party colleague and panel member Manish Tewari also hit out at the delays in the finalisation of the report. “The select committee finished it’s deliberations in December 2020. There is no final report for 6 months now. Any idea why @rsprasad? Truth is at times stranger than fiction,” Tewari wrote on Twitter.
According to people familiar with the matter, the deliberations of the committee have resulted in some very “serious differences” between the original bill and draft report. “The report that is likely to be finalised is going to be very different from the original bill that the committee set out to debate,” one person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
Lekhi did not respond to a request for comment.
The joint parliamentary committee has 20 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha. The committee was set up in 2019 to review the Personal Data Protection Bill, which was introduced in the 17th Lok Sabha. It first sought and received an extension till the winter session last year. It then received an extension till the first week of the second half of the budget session. HT reported on March 9 that the panel was looking at another extension before finalising the report. The report is now likely to be submitted in the monsoon session.
The committee has met various stakeholders as it debates far reaching reforms for personal data protection. It has also carefully analysed the bill that covers cross border transfer of data and the use of personal data by government and private companies. Provisions of the bill related to localization of data within the country and curbs on data sharing across borders have come in for criticism from global technology companies, but like many other countries in the world, India wants to ensure the data of its citizens is safe.