Consensus eludes panel on Data Bill – The Hindu BusinessLine

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Some members say that provisions are not enough, need to be strengthened

Consensus continues to elude the joint select committee of Parliament on the amended draft and the report on the Data Protection Bill that seeks to establish a Data Protection Authority, among other measures to protect privacy.

The Opposition members in the panel, however, objected to the new set of amendments. “We discussed the new amendments today. Some amendments which were accepted unanimously earlier have been deleted in the new draft Bill circulated by the Chairman. His justification is that those will be added in the IT Act,” a member said.

A main contention is on the penalty clause in Chapter Ten of the Bill which provides for a penalty that may extend to ₹15 crore or 4 per cent of the fiduciary’s (the service provider) worldwide turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher. The penalty is to be imposed if a data fiduciary processes personal data violating the provisions of the Bill, processes personal data of children, fails to adhere to security safeguards or transfers personal data outside India.

“We had unanimously recommended that these provisions are not enough and it should be made stronger. But the new draft does not have those provisions to our surprise,” another MP said.

Penalty clauses

It is learnt that there was an argument between the Opposition and BJP members on the clauses of penalty. “We asked the Chairman whose interest is the panel supposed to protect? Of fiduciaries or citizens? It seemed to us that the Centre has a specific agenda to protect the data fiduciaries. We told him that if we continue like this, the committee will become a laughing stock,” a member said

Another member said the issues will be resolved amicably and the intention of the panel is to see the Bill as an Act as quickly as possible. “We should not delay it further. But it should not be a half baked law which will not strengthen the privacy of citizens. We will submit the report in the first week of winter session,” the member said.

‘Dissent notes likely’

An Opposition MP added that there will be dissent notes to the report and to the Bill. “Holistic views on the Bills will be given,” the MP said.

Another concern is about the absence of State data protection authorities. “Cases of breach of privacy are dealt by States. Cases of social media posts affecting public order are also dealt by the States. Maharashtra and Karnataka governments had flagged this issue during our recent visits. One Central authority sitting in Delhi cannot deal with such issues. The Chairman, however, has a different view. We will give dissent notes,” another MP said.

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