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Drafting of new data protection bill almost complete as Centre to introduce it in parliament by budget session: Ashwini Vaishnaw

Also, the upcoming telecom bill will be introduced in the next 8-10 days, which has been drafted with the aim of being technology-neutral and ensuring user protection, said Ashwini Vaishnaw, minister of electronics and information technology, and communications

September 19, 2022 / 10:40 AM IST
Union IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. (Photo: ANI)

Union IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. (Photo: ANI)

Drafting of the new data protection bill is nearly complete and the government is aiming to introduce it in parliament by next year's budget session, Union minister of electronics and information technology Ashwini Vaishnaw said.

In an interview with government-run Sansad TV, Vaishnaw said, "Drafting of the bill is practically complete. Very soon we will be uploading it for consultation. We should be seeing the data protection bill in parliament by the budget session."

On September 3, the government withdrew the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, which was first drafted by an expert committee headed by Justice BN Srikrishna in 2018.

The government had introduced the 2019 version in the Lok Sabha, which was then referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee in December that year. The committee’s report was tabled in parliament in December 2021 after six extensions.

The bill was withdrawn because the Joint Parliamentary Committee in its report had recommended 81 amendments to the 2019 draft, and felt it would be better if a fresh data protection bill is brought in under the larger ambit of 'a comprehensive legal framework' -- Digital India regulation.

Minister of state in IT ministry Rajeev Chandrasekhar had also said that the a complicated data protection bill would have hurt startups.

In the Sansad TV interview, Vaishnaw also spoke on the Digital India regulation.

"The entire regulation will be focused on data protection, which is ready. Second is, how do we protect online users? Third is replacement of the IT Act. With that thought process, we are coming up with a comprehensive set of legislations for the entire digital economy," Vaishnaw said.

Vaishnaw has been repeatedly stressing the need for greater accountability among social media platforms for content that is being published.

"Recently we had the G20 digital ministers meeting in Indonesia. I interacted with digital ministers of countries across the continent. Each and every person is saying that the social fabric, the institutions that we have, is getting disrupted in an unpredictable manner because of the way social media has entered our lives," he said.

"Imagine the disruptive power it (social media) has: What is the guarantee that a person whose photo has been morphed, and put on a social media platform, that person's dignity, that person's status in society, that person's stress -- shouldn't that be a part of our legislative framework today?" Vaishnaw said.

Telecom bill

Vaishnaw who also holds the communications portfolio said that the upcoming telecom bill will be published in 8-10 days. Earlier, he said a detailed consultation process has been taken up with industry and other stakeholders.

"The thought process has been that the bill has to be technology-neutral because technology is always changing. Second, users' protection has to be paramount. There are hundreds of cyber frauds using telecom service as a basis for doing those frauds. How do we prevent those?" Vaishnaw asked.

"How do we make sure that there is a clearly defined spectrum allocation regime, purely based on a very transparent method? How do we make sure that the large telecom industry does not face any disruption when a new legislation comes? Keeping all those things in mind we have drafted the telecom bill," he said.

The ministry of electronics and information technology is also coming up with amendments to the Information Technology Rules 2021 which aim to address issues with the current grievance redressal mechanisms in social media platforms.

Chandrasekhar had said that the amendments will be brought in the next few days.

Aihik Sur covers tech policy, drones, space tech among other beats at Moneycontrol
first published: Sep 19, 2022 10:40 am