Over 20 civil society organisations have urged the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) to extend the deadline to submit stakeholder comments on the Draft Digital Competition Bill, 2024, and the report of the Committee on Digital Competition Law. The extra time will allow MSMEs, startups, civil society, academia and technical community to express their views, they said.

The last date for public comments on the draft bill and the expert committee report ends on May 15.

In an open letter to Manoj Govil, secretary, MCA, the organisations say the current deadline is insufficient to make a nuanced and informed submission, considering the technical complexity of the subject matter, cross-cutting impact of the Bill and regulatory overlaps.

“The Bill will impact various sectors and domains of the digital economy, including user experience, data protection and security, supply chains, investments, business costs for MSMEs and consumer affordability. It is also likely to impact non-digital domains, owing to their inextricable relationship with digital counterparts, and thus could consequently impact jobs and income generation opportunities created across sectors. It will overlap with existing and upcoming tech and sector-specific regulations, and cut across multiple policy areas, which necessitates a “whole of government” approach towards effective design and implementation,” the letter says.

The organisations also point out that the requirement and contours of a law of this significance will need to be informed by multiple factors, such as local realities, innovations across sectors to democratise access to technology, and citizens’ ability to leverage the potential of digital economy. The law should enable the digital economy’s contribution towards inclusive and sustainable development of the country, their appeal stated.

According to the organisations, the extension would allow the stakeholders to undertake research on themes, including on various nuances of the ‘whole of government’ approach, the impact of the law on the digital economy and its role in advancing the interests of Indian citizens. It will also provide them time to involve small businesses, consumers, gig workers and other stakeholders to ensure their inputs are effectively reflected in the law. The organisations also wanted to use the extra time to study the policy and regulatory overlaps of the Bill with existing and upcoming tech and relevant sector specific regulations in order to make the Bill more precise and focused. Impact study of existing ex-ante regulations across the world and its efficacies is another work the organisations wish to undertake during the extended timeframe.

The organisations, including Broadband India Forum, CUTS International, Internet Freedom Foundation, Cyber Jagriti and Safety Foundation, etc., want to increase the consultation timeline to at least five more months (till 15 October 2024).

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