Several opposition leaders walked out of a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Wednesday in a protest against the panel’s adoption of a “laudatory” report on the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023. The opposition MPs claimed that they did not read the latest version of the draft and it was approved without scrutiny.
The Union Cabinet had earlier given its nod to the draft of the Digital Data Protection Bill, which is expected to be tabled in the ongoing monsoon session of the parliament. The contents of the Bill will remain confidential until it is tabled in the Parliament, however, the version of the Bill approved by the Cabinet has retained most of the provisions that were present in the draft issued b rthe Ministry of Electronics and IT (Meity) in November 2022, which were flagged by experts for privacy concerns.
Opposition MPs walk out
The opposition MPs on the panel said that none of them had read the latest version of the Bill that was approved on July 5, according to a report by The Hindu. Wednesday's meeting was only the "third" of such discussions on the subject of "citizens' data security and privacy" since the committee was reconstituted in September 2022. Opposition MPs noted that a report cannot be framed on the basis of such "informal interactions," the report further said.
After high drama ensued between the BJP and opposition MPs, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey proposed a vote to break the deadlock, at which the Opposition members walked out. Among those who walked out of the meeting were Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP John Brittas, Trinamool Congress' Mahua Moitra and Jawahar Sircar, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's T Sumathy, Karti Chidambaram of the Congress and Telugu Desam Party's Jayadev Galla. The report was then adopted in their absence, The Hindu reported.
Meanwhile, several activists took to Twitter on Thursday to oppose the amendments to the proposed Bill. "Proposed amendments to RTI Act through #DataProtection bill will be a blow to peoples right to information. We oppose these amendments," Anjali Bharadwaj, a social activist said on Twitter.
Proposed amendments to RTI Act through #DataProtection bill will be a blow to peoples right to information. We oppose these amendments. #डेटाप्रोटेक्शन बिल के माध्यम से आरटीआई अधिनियम में संशोधन लोगों के सूचना के अधिकार पर प्रहार होगा। हम इन संशोधनों का विरोध करते हैं #SaveRTIpic.twitter.com/FKBrVNSDBe— Anjali Bhardwaj (@AnjaliB_) July 27, 2023
The proposed Data Protection Bill proposes an amendment to the RTI Act -- that all information that can be related to a person may be denied. According to media reports, such an amendment will in effect, allow the Right to Information Act to become a Right to Deny for public information officers, which sets a dangerous precedent.