The government on Wednesday withdrew the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill from Lok Sabha and said it will come up with a fresh draft legislation that will fit into the comprehensive legal framework at the earliest.

The government circulated among members a statement containing reasons for the withdrawal of the Bill, which was introduced on December 11, 2019 and was referred to the JCP of the Houses for examination. The report of the JCP was presented to the Lok Sabha in December 2021.

New draft

Speaking to BusinessLine, Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnav said the Parliamentary Committee had suggested 81 amendments in a bill of 99 sections, besides 12 other major recommendations.

“Along with 81 amendments and there were 12 recommendations over and above that towards comprehensive legal framework on digital ecosystem, a comprehensive legal framework is being worked upon. Hence, in the circumstances, it is proposed to withdraw “The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019” and present a new bill that fits into the comprehensive legal framework,” Vaishnav said.

He said the government has already prepared a new draft of the Bill, and the process is complete, and it will be put up for public discussion at the earliest. “Fundamentally, implementation will be simpler like digital implementation...we can’t go on 21.”

Vaishnav said most probably the new Bill would be introduced in the winter session of Parliament or the Budget session at the outer limit.

While a data protection law has been under consideration for several years, the current Bill has alarmed big tech companies. Civil society groups have also criticised the open-ended exceptions given to the government in the Bill, allowing for surveillance.

After considerable deliberation and examining the report (JCP), we have found that there is a need for a comprehensive redrawing of laws and rules. Taking into account some of the JCP’s comments and the emerging challenges and opportunities that arise here, a comprehensive approach to the laws will be undertaken by the government and we will come back to Parliament very quickly, after following a process of consultation with the stakeholders,” Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and IT, said.

Following the Centre’s decision to withdraw the PDP Bill, Congress MP Manish Tiwari said that he had rejected the Bill from the beginning. He added that better legislation would have emerged if it had been debated in Parliament.

“We have waited a long time for data protection legislation and whatever form the government intends. If the intent behind the motion to withdraw is to introduce a bill specific to PDP, then it is only right that the government clarifies the same. Further, even if it’s a data protection bill limited to personal data, the same has to be in line with the JPC inputs on the same to ensure expeditious enactment, which is what India needs at present,” said NS Nappinai, Supreme Court Advocate and Founder – Cyber Saathi.

“It’s really puzzling that the government cannot act on the most important issue apart from climate change of our times. This continuing dithering leaves citizens unprotected, a wide field open for companies to exploit data, and An unbridled government to carry out mass surveillance. The time to enact this bill was the day before yesterday, yet we continue to deal with this inexplicable failure to act and protect citizens,” Mishi Choudhary, at the Software Freedom Law Center India, said.

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