The Lok Sabha has passed the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023. During the brief discussion on the Bill in the House amid protests from the Opposition, communications, electronics, and IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw offered key clarifications on the concerns surrounding the bill on exemptions to the Centre, RTI, and right to be forgotten, among others.

The bill lays down that the provisions of the Act will not apply to the processing of personal data by an instrumentality of the state, as notified by the Central government citing the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, and maintenance of public order, among others.

The Opposition parties, which had been protesting demanding a debate on the Manipur issue, claim this provision of the bill grants censorship powers to the state.  

Responding to the concerns, Vaishnaw says while moving for the passage of the bill, “If a natural disaster takes place, forms and notices for processing personal data should be a priority for the government or safety of citizens should be accorded a priority.”

“If the police are investigating a case and are going to nab an offender, will they adhere to forms seeking permission (for processing data), or will go ahead with their job,” Vaishnaw asks.  

On concerns the bill dilutes the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, the IT minister says the harmonisation that was required to be done between the RTI Act and the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill has been done. The RTI Act, currently allows the disclosure of the personal information of officials in public bodies if it is in the public interest, which the data protection bill disallows. “The three principles of the Puttaswamy judgment have been incorporated in the bill,” Vaishnaw says. 

In 2017, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) Vs Union of India that the fundamental right to privacy of the Indian citizens is Constitutionally protected under Article 21.  

On the concerns raised about the absence of harm and the right to be forgotten Vaishnaw says, “Section 2B defines the loss which could be compensated through the law of torts. The right to be forgotten is in section 12 in the form of the right to be erased. Section 16 has clear provisions for data localisation.” 

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