Falling short: On data protection provisos

JPC Bill gives much leeway to Govt. to exempt its agencies from data protection provisos

As JPC member from the Rajya Sabha, the Congress’s Jairam Ramesh, rightly mentions in his dissent note, the “government must always comply with the Bill’s requirement of fair and reasonable processing and implementing the necessary safeguards”, which requires that the exemptions granted in writing should at least be tabled in both Houses of Parliament; but that was not accepted by the JPC. His note also points out to the dangers of exemption on the grounds of “public order” as it is susceptible to misuse and not limited to “security of the state” which is recognised by other data regulations such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation as a viable reason for exemption. In October 2021, the Global Privacy Assembly, featuring Privacy Commissioners from over 19 countries including those from the European Union, Japan and the U.K., came up with a clear resolution on principles for government access to personal data. In its resolution, the Assembly asked for a set of principles on legal basis, the need for clear and precise rules, proportionality and transparency, data subject rights, independent oversight, and effective remedies and redress to the individuals affected. As the JPC’s adoption of the draft Bill and the dissent notes appended to it suggest, it has fallen short of standards protecting privacy rights of individuals against blanket misuse by the state. It is now the task of Parliament to tighten the provisions further and bring them in conformance with the 2018 Bill.

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