Data Protection Bill

Data Protection Bill Withdrawn: Here’s Why the Industry Was Opposing the Bill

The highly contentious Data Protection Bill has been withdrawn by the Government of India with a proposal to introduce a fresh bill

In what came as a surprise, the Data Protection Bill was withdrawn by the Government of India in the Lok Sabha. The decision was announced by Ashwini Vaishhnaw, Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India based on the recommendations made by the Joint Committee of the Parliament (JCP). He also stated that the Indian Government would propose a new legislation on a later date.

“Personal Data Protection Bill has been withdrawn because the JCP recommended 81 amendments in a bill of 99 sections. Above that it made 12 major recommendations. Therefore the bill has been withdrawn and a new bill will be presented for public consultation,” said Ashwini Vaishhnaw in the Lok Sabha. The draft Personal Data Protection Bill was introduced by the Justice BN Srikrishna Committee in the year 2018. “This report is based on the fundamental belief shared by the entire Committee that if India is to shape the global digital landscape in the 21st century, it must formulate a legal framework relating to personal data that can work as a template for the developing world,” said the report.

Former Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna was of the view that the Data Protection Bill was much required and had opined: “A Data Protection Bill is the need of the hour. We have to go beyond the stated intent of data collection to understand the motives and eventual uses to which it can be put.”

Why the Data Protection Bill Was Being Resisted by a Section of the Industry

Among other elements, the bill was  also expected to govern how global giants such as Google, Amazon, Alibaba, Facebook and other would handle, process, store and transfer users’ personal data. The implementation of the bill would largely impact how consumer data would be protected and kept private. “User awareness towards their privacy has been on the rise lately and consumers would be seen making more privacy-conscious decisions and associating certain brands that provide greater privacy controls as better options,” Jaspreet Singh, former Partner – Cyber Security at EY had said.

“The data protection bill is like a double-sided sword, on one hand it protects the personal data of Indians by empowering them with data principal rights and on the other hand it bestows the central government with exemptions, which are against principles of processing,” he had added.

Kuldeep Singh, CMD, MTNL, had said in an event organised by the Broadband India Forum (BIF) in 2018 that the worrisome issue of the bill was the recommendation for the data localisation in the country. What could be the objective of such localization in the country, he had mused. “Objectives could be security, accessibility to the government and the agencies outside the country,” he had said.

Sameer Mathur, Founder & CEO, SM Consulting, had written an in-depth analysis of the Indian Data Protection Bill. He had stated that the bill could be introduced provided a few amends were made to ensure misuse of the Bill.

Industry Views on the Data Protection Bill Being Withdrawn

Aparajita Bharti, founding partner at TQH Consulting, said: “The Data Protection Bill as proposed by the JPC had become an omnibus, going much beyond the remit of the original Bill. Given the number of outstanding questions around issues like non personal data, data localisation, cross border data flows, exemptions to central government, the government’s intent to bring a fresh Bill that incorporates all the feedback could be a positive step. One hopes that the new Bill will be circulated for consultation in the near future.”

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