The much-anticipated report of the Joint Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was tabled in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha on Thursday, December 16. The Joint Committee had been granted six extensions to submit the report on the much-criticised Personal Data Protection Bill. The Bill, seeking to provide for the protection of personal data of individuals and establish a Data Protection Authority for the same, was brought in Parliament in 2019 and was referred to the Joint Committee for further scrutiny on the demand of opposition members.
Tabling the report in the Rajya Sabha, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said, "This report shows the chairman is cooperative, the government is accomodative, the opposition is responsive." However, after this, the Rajya Sabha failed to transact any business as the House was adjourned multiple times, and then eventually for the day. Opposition members have been protesting in the House over the issue of suspension of 12 MPs.
The Joint Committee of Parliament on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 had last month adopted the report on the Bill, which provided the government with powers to give exemptions to its probe agencies from the provisions of the Act, a move opposed by opposition MPs who filed their dissent notes.
During the tabling of a JPC report on the Personal Data Protection Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, Congress Chief Whip Jairam Ramesh said it showed how the opposition and government could work together. He referred to the meetings being held smoothly despite the committee seeing two successive chairpersons from the BJP — first Meenkashi Lekhi and now PP Chaudhary. The committee adopted the report on the Personal Data Protection Bill, the Congress MPs, however, gave a dissent note. Congress MP from Anandpur Sahib Manish Tewari and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh had submitted a dissent note last month.
Submitting the dissent note, Jairam Ramesh had said, "The Joint Committee of Parliament has adopted its report on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019. There are dissent notes, but that is in the best spirit of parliamentary democracy. Sadly, such examples are a few and far between and under the Modi regime. I am compelled to submit a detailed dissent note. But that should not detract from the democratic manner in which the Committee has functioned. Now, for the debate in Parliament," Jairam said.
Tewari said, "I was constrained to submit a dissent note as I do not agree with the fundamental design and construction of the Bill."
After its introduction in the Lok Sabha, the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, had been referred to the joint committee to seek views and suggestions on the legislation from individuals and associations/bodies concerned. The committee met last month to finalise the report under PP Chaudhary.
As per the JPC report, a major departure from the previous draft of the Bill is that it includes both personal as well as non-personal data under its ambit, which will be dealt with under the Data Protection Authority. In addition, in order for the recommendations to be implemented, the JPC recommended that 24 months be provided so that changes to policies of all parties can be made. Another recommendation focuses on data breaches, which has been seen more and more in recent times, with questions raised about accountability. The committee has fixed guiding principles on how a data breach must be handled. It also seeks additional compliance from companies that deal with the data of children, and what rules must be followed when the child becomes 18 years of age.