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Congress MP Jairam Ramesh submits dissent note as parliamentary panel adopts draft report on data protection bill

Ramesh, a member of the joint parliamentary panel, has objected to a clause that allows the Union government to exempt any agency under its purview from the law.

November 22, 2021 / 03:11 PM IST
Jairam Ramesh (Image: Reuters)

Jairam Ramesh (Image: Reuters)

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has submitted a dissent note in the Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP) that adopted the draft report on Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 on November 22.

Ramesh, a member of the JCP, has objected to a clause that allows the Centre to exempt any agency under its purview from the law.

READ: Parliamentary panel finalises draft report on data protection bill

“Finally, it is done. The Joint Committee of Parliament has adopted its report on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019. There are dissent notes, but that is in the best spirit of parliamentary democracy. Sadly, such examples are few and far between under the Modi regime,” Ramesh, also a Rajya Sabha member wrote on Twitter.

The report with recommendations is now likely to be placed before the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

Ramesh posted his dissent note on Twitter saying that he had suggested amendments to Section 35 and Section 12 of the Bill.

“I had suggested amendments to section 35 which is the most crucial provision of the Bill as well as to section 12. The JCP gave me a patient hearing but I was unable to convince it of the merits of my arguments. The general consensus in the JCP appeared to be in favour of not accepting my amendments and I did not want to force the issue beyond a point,” Ramesh said in the note addressed to JCP, PP Chaudhuri.

The draft report on the Data Protection Bill, 2019 was referred to the parliamentary panel in December 2019, after it was submitted in the parliament. It has called for storing sensitive personal data in India, obligations of data fiduciaries to deploy safeguards, and grievance redress mechanism.

"Before I get into specific sections, please allow me to say that the design of the Bill assumes that the constitutional right to privacy arises only where operations and activities of private companies are concerned. Government and government agencies are treated as a separate privileged class whose operations and activities are always in the public interest and individual privacy considerations are secondary,” Ramesh pointed out.

Also, read: 5th extension for joint panel on Data Protection Bill, report submission in Winter Session

The Congress leader elaborated that Section 35 gave “unbridled” powers to the Union government to exempt any agency from the entire Act itself.

“Under the amendment, I had suggested that the central government will have to get Parliamentary approval for exempting any of its agencies from the purview of the law. Even then, the government must always comply with the Bill’s requirement of fair and reasonable processing and implementing the necessary security safeguards,” he said.

He explained that Section 12 (a) (i) created certain exceptions for governments and government agencies from the provisions of consent.

“While fully understanding the logic for such exemptions in a number of circumstances, I had suggested some changes to make this exemption less sweeping and less automatic. The JCP's report allows a period of two years for private companies to migrate to the new data protection regime but government and government agencies have no such stipulation,” he said.

Also, read: Why India must fortify its data privacy laws

The proposal for the Bill came after the Supreme Court declared in 2017 that privacy as a fundamental right, and directed government to come up with the data protection regime.

The Bill aims at protecting privacy of individuals by regulating how the data of individuals can be used and processed. It aimed to create a framework around how governments, private companies, and individuals, can process the data.
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