There were three major criticisms against the PDPA 2018 (draft) which was presented by the Srikrishna Committee. One was on whether Aadhaar Act was to be amended. Second was on “Data Localization”. The third major objection was raised in respect of the proposed amendment to RTI Act 2005.
According to this report in dnaindia.com RTI Activists in Mumbai have started a campaign against “Amendments to the RTI Act through the proposed Data Protection Bill” because they believe that this will ensure that officials will not be held accountable and transparency will be affected. A RTI activist named Mr Bhaskar Prabhu has been quoted as stating “As per data protection, it seems they have suggested changes to 8 (1) (j) or strike it odd altogether. If they take that stand and data protection has an overriding effect, then all information will be termed a personal and will not be provided,”
Another activist Mr Shailesh Gandhi has reportedly started a campaign for people to call up law makers and states “”The more serious amendment to RTI Act has been proposed in the Data Protection Bill. It seeks to make Section 8 (1)(j) an omnibus exemption which could be used to deny most information where there is the name of an individual,”
PDPA 2018 proposes that in place of the current clause (j) of sub-section (1) of section 8 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 the following clause (j) of sub-section (1) of section 8 shall be substituted.
Coinciding with these views, comments made by the Central Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu in a lecture in Hyderabad on the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2018 stating that it will weaken the Act was super imposed by the media to project as if he has a strong objection to the proposed amendment through the PDPA 2018.
However, if we observe the proposed amendment it appears that this is a propaganda launched by the motivated media to oppose the PDPA 2018.
The two versions namely the present version and the proposed version are provided below:
(j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has not relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.
(j) information which relates to personal data which is likely to cause harm to a data principal, where such harm outweighs the public interest in accessing such information having due regard to the common good of promoting transparency and accountability in the functioning of the public authority;
Provided, disclosure of information under this clause shall be notwithstanding anything contained in the Personal Data Protection Act, 2018;
Provided further, that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.
Explanation. —For the purpose of this section, the terms “personal data‟, “data principal‟, and “harm‟ shall have the meaning assigned to these terms in the Personal Data Protection Act, 2018.”
If we study the two versions, it appears that the proposed amendment is cosmetic and tries to replace the words
“..cause unwaranted invasion of Privacy of an individual…unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information “
with the words
“likely to cause harm to a data principal, where such harm outweighs the public interest”
There does not appear to be any ground to attribute all the motives that the Press reports to have assigned in their reports.
I request Mr Sridhar to clarify if he has any view on this specific amendment proposed by the Justice Srikrishna Committee. It is possible that the other RTI activists quoted in the DNA report might not have studied the bill and might have made an off the cuff remark based on what the journalist might have told them about the proposed bill. If so, they also need to clarify.
It is regrettable that certain sections of the media appear to be hitting out at PDPA 2018 without specific reason. It appears that they have objection to whatever Modi Government does or does not do. First they said there is no Privacy Act in India and now they donot want the Act to be passed. I wish that these Pseudo Data Protectionists should be stopped from spreading mis information about the PDPA 2018 and the Press Council should seek explanation from these journalists on the basis on which they are writing such motivated articles.
It is because of such unscrupulous journalists that Social Media is being relied more than the traditional media which situation is being exploited by the malicious individuals to spread fake news and further blame the Government for its inability to control fake information.
There appears to be a fair amount of “Fake” information in the traditional media itself working under the cover of “Freedom of Press”. This needs to be checked by “Ethical Journalists” who should come together to weed out the bad elements.
If these fake journalists are not stopped, they will prevent the PDPA 2018 from being passed in the next session of the Parliament and then they will lobby with the Supreme Court to release the Aadhaar judgement to strike it down since the Government has failed to pass the Privacy Bill and further attack Mr Modi during the next election for his inability.
Thus we are seeing the playing out of the 2019 election politics in the criticisms of PDPA 2018 that are surfacing now.