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Oppn MPs oppose Data Protection Bill that gives Centre ultimate power to exempt Govt

Oppn MPs oppose Data Protection Bill that gives Centre ultimate power to exempt Govt

New Delhi: After the Joint Committee of Parliament on the Personal Data Protection Bill adopted its report at its meeting on Monday, seven MPs from Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJD gave dissent notes on the Bill, The Indian Express reported.

The common objection of dissenters was to a clause that allows the Union government to exempt any agency under its purview from the law.

In his dissent note, which he shared on Twitter, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh objected to Section 35 of the Bill, stating that it gives excessive powers to the Union government to exempt agencies from the entire Act. He also objected to Section 12 (a) (I), saying that it creates certain exemptions for government and government agencies from consent provisions.

The two were treated as a separate privileged class while their activities were always in the public interest, and individual privacy considerations were secondary. He suggested that the government seek Parliamentary approval from exempting any of its agencies from the purview of the law.

Congress MP Manish Tiwari argued that the entire Bill has an inherent design flaw. The Bill creates parallel universes, one for the private sector where it would apply with diligence and one for the government where it serves exemptions, carve-outs and escape-clauses.

Referring to the Puttaswamy case of 2017, he said that a proviso might be added to Section 35 that no exemption shall be granted until judicially determined by the Appellate Tribunal provided for in the Bill in Clause 68.

Also, everyone must have the right to approach the Tribunal to ask why such an exemption should or should not be granted. He further said that the definition of a child should be different for different categories of content.

TMC MPs Derek O' Brien and Mahua Moitra said in their dissent note that the Bill lacks the required safeguard to protect the right to privacy of data principles. They questioned the committee's functioning on the Bill, saying it rushed through its mandate, failing to give enough time and opportunity for stakeholders' consultations.

They objected to the inclusion of non-personal data within the ambit of the law. While flagging that no proper safeguards are introduced to check misuse of Section 35, they argued that the selection of members and the chairpersons of the proposed Data Protection Authority has severe involvement of the Union government.

In addition to 'exemptions' under Sections 12 and 35, MP Gaurav Gogoi of Congress flagged concerns over the lack of attention paid to the harms arising from surveillance and efforts to establish a modern surveillance network. He raised concerns on lack of parliamentary oversight, regulation of non-personal data under the framework and failure to quantify penalties.

MPs Vivek Tankha of Congress and Amar Patnaik of BJD also gave dissent notes.

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