In a bid to appear non partisan, the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, has invited not only the industry associations but also many individual foreign technical giants to depose before itself. If Amazon, Twitter, Google, FaceBook or even VISA etc are invited to depose, it is more likely that the JPC will gather more views on how to dilute the Bill further rather than protect the data sovereignty of the country.
Already the PDPB 2019 is a highly diluted version compared to the PDPA 2018 and the most contentious part of Data Localization has been given up.
When the EU GDPR is moving more and more towards “Data Localization” through an imposition of the Standard Contractual Clauses, it is strange that India is providing free data transfer across the borders.
There were two major demands on the Indian Personal Data Protection law. First was to reduce the power of the Government to use personal data for carrying out its responsibilities in law enforcement and national security. Second was to ease the controls for data transfer out of India without reasonable restrictions.
The PDPB 2019 has already accepted the “Free Data Transfer” principle. Now if the Government keeps consulting all the business entities, the only suggestions they receive would be how to make the bill more friendly to business.
There is already a rumour in the Delhi circles that the business entities are entering into various deals with the Government and it will make changes to the Bill as dictated by these agencies.
We sincerely believe that the JPC will not fall into the trap of listening to the tech giants who are known “Manipulators” of public opinion.
The Current objective of the JPC is to get the law fine tuned to avoid gaffes. A law like this will need to balance the views of multiple types of stake holders and the JPC cannot therefore satisfy all. In the end every one will have some points of dissatisfaction and it is perfectly natural.
By prolonging the decision and listening more and more to vested interests, there is a possibility that the JPC will be overwhelmed by the business views. At some point of time, some body will say, out of 100 people who deposed before the committee, 90 wanted that data should be freely transferred, 85 wanted Government not to have any rights of surveillance etc and force the Committee to make changes to accommodate the majority view. This will make it difficult to introduce decisions which are good for the country.
I would like to point out here, if the Government runs a referendum on the Indian Constitution, a majority of Indians would opt for a re-definition of the term Secularism to mean non appeasement of specific religions, caste etc. Just as the Government would not like to go by the majority in making laws of such nature, PDPB cannot be left to be decided by the majority of deponents who represent vested interests. It will be like taking a referendum in Kashmir after cleansing the Hindu population.
We therefore urge the JPC to be not too much worried about inviting every business entity to depose before it and restrict its consultation only to neutral experts in the filed.
There is a proverb in Kannada to the effect “Some body tried to create Ganesha in clay and ended up creating his father (Lingam)”. (ಗಣೇಶನ ಮಾಡೋಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋಗಿ, ಗಣೇಶನ ಅಪ್ಪನ್ನ ಮಾಡಿದರು).
Similarly, there is a real danger that the final version of PDPB may turn out to be completely different from what it was meant to be. I wish the JPC resists the temptation of inviting all and sundry, prolong the proceedings and let itself to be brainwashed.
Even if the JPC holds up its commitment for an act that serves more the Indian interests than the business interests, we see the danger of some of the opponents of the Bill creating documentation to help them challenge the Act later stating that a majority of deponents had a different view and it was unfairly ignored by the JPC .
If it happens, it will be a tragedy.