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Data Bill: Controversial house panel report to be tabled today

The highly debated Parliamentary standing committee on communications and information technology will be tabled in parliament on Tuesday. The report has drawn objections from the Opposition, who argue that it was prepared without following proper parliamentary procedure. It is expected to include crucial recommendations, particularly regarding a mechanism to prevent the misuse of extraordinary powers granted to the state under the draft Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023.

Opposition members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology had staged a walkout last Wednesday, taking exceptions to the panel adopting the report on the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023. CPM MP from Kerala John Brittas wrote to both Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar, saying that parliamentary committee report on Data Protection Bill should not be tabled in parliament since it was beyond its remit. The MPs contend that the panel cannot give a report to Parliament unless the corresponding Bill has been introduced in Parliament and specifically referred to the panel.

No deemed consent clause
However, the report goes on to give its recommendations under the larger remit of “citizens’ data security and privacy”. In the revised Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023, which the government is expected to introduce in Parliament in the ongoing session, there is no ‘deemed consent” clause. This clause had figured in the 2022 version of the bill giving powers to the state to harvest personal data without explicit consent in some circumstances after being criticised by the public and experts. The panel report seconds the provisions in the latest Bill which is believed to have authorised the government and its agencies to process personal data to perform law and order duties and for national security, besides to provide benefits such as subsidies, and services like certificates, licences and permits.

The report’s extensive observations on the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023 are apparently based on evidence provided by the Ministry during the consultation meetings on the draft Bill.

The report is believed to have made recommendations for its observations and suggestions to be taken into account while drafting robust and comprehensive data protection legislation, with a focus on safeguarding the interests and rights of citizens in the digital age. Regarding seeking consent, the draft Bill is said to prioritise issuing notices in languages specified in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. It also incorporates a provision to allow individuals to withdraw their consent at any time under the concept of ‘Data Principals,’ drawing inspiration from global best practices to ensure individual privacy, according to sources.

The proposed Bill incorporates a number of innovative features such as, for the first time in any central act, women have been acknowledged by using the feminine pronoun “She”.

The latest draft Bill also enables speedier adjudication by providing alternate dispute resolution and any person harmed in the process can file a civil litigation and give example of penalties imposed by a proposed Board to support claim. Besides that it also enhances ease of living and ease of doing business, the report is said to have observed.

On protecting personal data of children from being misused, the draft legislation reportedly proposes that it can be used with parental consent and that it should not be detrimental to their well-being or involved in tracking them or for their behavioural monitoring and targeted advertising. The Hindu BusinessLine

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