Withdrawal of Personal Data Protection Bill: Who benefits from the delay?

Source: The post is based on the article “Withdrawal of Personal Data Protection Bill: Who benefits from the delay?” published in the Indian Express on 5th August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Relevance: To understand the issues associated with the withdrawal of the Personal Data Protection Bill.

News: Recently, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) withdrew the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.

What is the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019?

A proposal for a data protection framework was first considered in 2011 when a draft was coordinated through the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. An expert committee headed by Justice (retd) A P Shah in 2012 recommended, “a detailed framework that serves as the conceptual foundation for the Privacy Act”. But the proposals were buried by 2014 due to objections from the intelligence establishment on surveillance reforms.

With petitions on the constitutionality of Aadhaar and the right to privacy were pending before the Supreme Court, the Union government constituted an expert group headed by Justice (retd) B N Srikrishna in July 2017. This led to the introduction of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 in Parliament.

Must read: Draft Personal Data Protection Bill – Explained, pointwise
What is the reason for withdrawal?
Read here: Union government rolls back Data Protection Bill
What are the issues associated with the withdrawal?

1) The JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee) has nowhere suggested a withdrawal in favour of a “comprehensive legal framework”, but on the contrary pitched for the Bill to “be passed” with amendments. 2) The government fears that a compliance burden can impede innovation and growth in the digital economy. 3) There exists a reasonable argument that if passed into law, the 2019 bill may institutionalise bad privacy practices. Seeking changes in the law at a later date may be difficult considering the relentless pace of digitisation.

Read more: Issue of privacy and Personal Data Protection Bill 2019
What could have been done instead of withdrawal of PDPB?

a) To build stakeholder confidence and clear doubts on specific provisions, a public consultation could have been organised. b) With the government setting the goal of a one trillion dollar digital economy a regulatory intervention is required to improve the business practices in digital products and services. India should explore the existing parliamentary amendments and judicial review to update the law and fill the legal vacuum. c) Growing international consensus suggests that next-generation innovation in technology needs data protection.

Read more: Need for a robust Personal Data Protection Bill

The government should realise that every delay and status quo will result in unregulated collection and exploitation of personal data of millions of Indians

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