How Politicians are conspiring indirectly to bring bad name to PDPB 2019

Yesterday we had a spectacle of Mr Arnab Goswami the well known journalist being subjected to 12 hours of grilling by the Mumbai Police on an FIR against  his uttering against Sonia Maino alias Sonia Gandhi, the leader of Congress party. 

What was noticeable in the day’s proceedings was that the two people who were arrested earlier for attacking Mr and Mrs Arnab Goswami were given a bail by some Magistrate probably because the Police chose to charge them on flimsy grounds. Mr Arnab Goswami’s complaint was on the lynching of two Hindu Sadhus in Palghar and the lack of investigation on the murder and the silence of the Congress leader.  

Mr Arnab Goswami has developed his own brand of journalism and his high decible complaining of the lynching in Palghar seems to have so much rattled the Congress party that its supporters filed over 200 FIRs against Mr Arnab Goswami and ultimately took to attacking him in the dead of the night when he was returning from his studios.

The incident required to be condemned by all supporters of democracy including those who are opposed to Mr Arnab Goswami. But the politicians have been mostly silent on the attack and the media is also did not raise its voice. 

At the same time Mr Arnab got a stay on the FIRs from the Supreme Court except one case in Nagpur and the Mumbai Police are trying to use this FIR to teach him a lesson. The lesson that he was required to be taught was not to raise his voice on Mrs Sonia Maino/Gandhi and for that purpose he was subjected to a 12 hour interrogation.

While Police may justify that they needed to show some video footages etc and obtain his views, there was no need for the interrogation to continue for 12 hours. It could have actually been broken up and continued on the next day. 

What this incident has shown is that Police in India remain the faithful servants of the politicians and at their beckoning can be made to drop sections on the assaulters and at the same time grill the journalist until he is tired and loses mental balance. We are all aware how Mrs Indira Gandhi imposed the Press Censorship in 1975 emergency time. What Sonia is trying to do is perhaps to follow the footsteps of her illustrious MIL.

This may not be some thing new in India and we could have ignored it in the normal course.  But  the reason why we need to highlight this here is that this kind of behaviour of the Police creates a distrust on them when we try to justify provision of  some extra powers under law. The distrust on the police will translate itself as the distrust of the Government. 

We should therefore consider the impact of this incident on the discussions that are being held on s the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) where there are some exemptions provided to the Government and the Law enforcement related to the protection of Privacy. The undersigned has on many occassions defended the right of the Police for surveillance through CCTV footage and other means because security of the Citizens is an uncompromisable responsibility. 

On the other hand there are people who are opposed to the PDPB stating that it gives too much of power to the Government and/or the Law enforcement. The current incident  supports this view point and shows how a State Government can make its Police to dance to the tunes of a party controlling indirect power in the State. If this can happen in an incident like this, we can imagine that if the same party is in power in the Center, then the laws like Personal Data Protection Act and its objective of protecting the privacy of citizens would be kicked beyond the Hindu Maha Sagar into an oblivion.

There are already many motivated articles that are appearing in pliable journals stating that PDPB will “Stiffle the digital economy with overbearing regulations”. Today’s LiveMint reports one such article. This article has made  the following remarks.

1.The pivot of the framework appears to be a domineering mandate to be given to a data regulator, structurally geared to intervene rather than facilitate.
2. The Bill has broad-based restrictions on the transfer of data overseas from India, which could hive our market off from the global digital economy.
3. The Bill seeks to protect privacy by way of what looks like a regulatory sledgehammer that imposes extensive compliance requirements with little aid to data protection.
4. Bill sets forth an inflexible framework that is bereft of any formal consultative rule-making process, which is likely to stifle innovation in the sector.
5. Substantial portions of the Bill are out of sync with international data protection practices, which could blunt India’s competitive advantage as a digital market.
6. The Bill also requires large players to have data protection officers physically located within India.
7. Instead of specifying broad legal standards, the proposed framework requires the Authority to lay down regulations of the one-size-fits-all kind.
(P.S: We would not now like to comment specifically on the points raised above as it is clear that the objections raised are not correct and the article is perhaps motivated by vested business interests though it is the right of the author of the article to give out his views)
Though this article does not mention the powers of the Government, the  incident of Arnab becomes a huge vindication of the fact that people with power are difficult to be trusted if there is a bad master and a pliable servant. 
Before the opponents of the PDPB start citing the Arnab Case and start arguing for dilution of powers of the State and Law Enforcement under PDPB, it is necessary for the Government of India to instill some confidence in the system.
This requires the Central Home Ministry under Mr Amit Shah to come up with a suitable statement that any excesses of the Police on political considerations would not be tolerated. If they remain quiet, then the “Chilling Effect” of the Arnab grilling will ensure that at least in Maharashtra there will be emergency of the Sonia era. This could hurt the PDPB passage in its present form also.
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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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