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Tenure of panel on data protection bill won’t be extended any more, Speaker
There will be no further extension of time granted to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 to submit its report, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has said.
This, even though 5 of the 30 member JPC, including its chairperson Meenakshi Lekhi, have been elevated as ministers in the recent reshuffle of the Union cabinet. According to parliamentary procedures, ministers cannot be part of parliamentary committees.
The Speaker’s comments are significant because it means that the passage of the Personal Data Protection bill may not be delayed inordinately.
“When the chairperson has taken charge as minister, she cannot remain chairperson of the committee. The work she has done was already at an advanced stage. Very little work remains to be done. We will request that the report is tabled in parliament soon. There is no scope for granting them any extension of time now,” Birla said.
A draft of the committee’s report has already been submitted to the Speaker’s office. While the panel was originally scheduled to turn in its report in December last year, it had sought extension of time till the budget session to submit its report. Later, chairperson Lekhi sought an extension until the monsoon session.
Apart from Lekhi, other members of the committee who were appointed ministers include Bhupender Yadav, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Ajay Bhatt and Heena Gavit. Prior to their elevation, the committee had two vacancies, one each in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, taking the number of vacancies to seven.
Technically, a new chairperson, once appointed, may ask for additional time to review matters taken up by the committee. Birla, however, said on Monday he would urge the new chairperson to table the report soon.
The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 was tabled in the Indian Parliament by the minister of Electronics and Information Technology in December 2019. It deals with the issue of data privacy and how companies tackle consumer data while discharging services.
The Bill was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee soon after. The panel held 66 meetings until December 2020 to consult with experts and stakeholders. Among those quizzed by the JPC were social media companies like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, cab service providers Ola and Uber, telecom companies Reliance Jio, Vi and Airtel, and Swedish caller identification app Truecaller. The JPC raised specific concerns over whether multinational companies were storing Indian user data locally, or routing information through servers held outside of India. They also questioned service providers on how Indian user data was monetised, but revenue not shared with the Indian State.
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