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Opinion

Parliamentarians want more controls on the government

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Several MPs who cross political lines want the powers of government to be reduced under the proposed data privacy law, recommending in a joint parliamentary committee that the principles of necessity and proportionality, part of the draft published by a committee of experts but removed in the bill presented in Parliament – restored in sections where the government can access personal data without the consent of a person.

Congressional leaders Jairam Ramesh, Manish Tewari and Gaurav Gogoi, Derek O’Brien and Mahua Moitra of Trinamool, Bhartruhari Mahtab and Amar Patnaik of Biju Janata Dal, Ritesh Pandey of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Shrikant Shinde of Shiv Sena favor limiting government access to personal information. Rajeev Chandrasekhar of the Bharatiya Janata Party, on the other hand, wanted new reasons added for the government to process such personal data.

The concerns are related to clause 35 of the bill, which allows the central government, when “it is satisfied that it is necessary or convenient” to access people’s data for reasons such as safeguarding national security. This section generated a large number of amendments, HT has learned.

A total of 228 amendments, mostly from members of the Opposition, have been submitted to the joint panel that reviews the bill. These include renaming the bill as the Personal Data Privacy Protection Bill, a timeline for enactment of the law, and keeping personal data anonymized outside the scope of the bill.

Some of the key concerns raised by members relate to Clause 35 of the bill, which lays the groundwork for the government to have powers to access people’s data for reasons such as safeguarding national security. This section generated a large number of amendments, HT has learned.

According to this clause, no other part of the law, which deals with how personal data should be handled, the rights of the person over this data and the punishment for infringers, will apply and the Center may process personal data ” in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, State security, friendly relations with foreign States, public order ”and other related reasons.

The leader of Congress, Gaurav Gogoi, proposed that the amendments be such that the Center can process personal data “… when it is convinced that it is necessary and proportionate to achieve the security of the State, in order for reasons that must be recorded in writing “.

Ramesh also said that the government’s processing of personal data will be “proportionate and less intrusive.” It also said that “the public interest in granting the exemption outweighs, to a substantial degree, any interference with the data directors’ right to privacy that could result from such exempt processing, WHEREAS no processing can be exempt from Section 4 and 5 of Chapter II and Section 24 of Chapter VII of this Law ”.

The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 will underpin India’s first legal framework to protect privacy after the Supreme Court deemed it a fundamental right in 2017. But there have been differences over clauses such as those exempting agencies. governments and force companies to share anonymized data with authorities. The bill was sent to a JPC for these differences. The bill is based on a draft prepared by a committee of experts headed by retired judge BN Srikrishna.

In the amendments recommended by Amar Patnaik of BJD, the exemption should be allowed in cases “where the Central Government is satisfied that it is necessary, proportionate and legitimate”.

O’Brien and Moitra proposed that processing in the interest of State security “shall not be permitted unless authorized in accordance with a law, and in accordance with the procedure established by said law, made by Parliament and is necessary for, and in proportion to such interests being “replaced”.

Congressional Tewari said there should be no such exemption for the government “until such time as it is judicially determined by the Court of Appeals” and anyone will have the right to access the Court. “Said exemption must be a reasoned order and duly notified to guarantee that the remedy available under Clause 75 can be exercised by the interested parties,” said the Tewari amendment.

BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab demanded that “public order” be omitted as the basis for government access. BSP’s Ritesh Pandey says it must be a “clearly defined purpose, which is fair, equitable and reasonable.”

Mahtab also recommended that the word “irreversible” be added to sections that allow the government to access anonymized data.

Shortly after the bill was introduced, experts said the law gives the government a wide margin of oversight. “The new draft appears to remove the ‘fair and reasonable processing’ obligation in the Srikrishna Committee draft that applied when accessing personal data for purposes such as national security and to comply with court orders. In the new version, the government can process personal data for reasons of national security (article 35), or for purposes related to crimes or court orders (article 36), and the only obligation that would apply would be that it needs to have a specific purpose, clear and legal, ”Rahul Matthan, a partner-attorney in technology and media practice at the Trilegal law firm, told HT at the time.

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