Ministry Refuses To Share Minutes Of Srikrishna Committee On Data Protection, Responses To White Paper, Says It Is Confidential

Ministry Refuses To Share Minutes Of Srikrishna Committee On Data Protection, Responses To White Paper, Says It Is Confidential

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has refused to share information on minutes of meetings held by Justice BN Srikrishna Committee on data protection and the various representations made before the committee meetings saying making the information public without taking the committee into confidence would interfere with its functioning.

Social activist Anjali Bhardwaj, working in the area of transparency and accountability, had filed RTI applications before the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.

In her RTI application, Bhardwaj had sought to know the total number of meetings held by the committee till date and also requested for copy of agenda of each meeting held after October 4, 2017, documents provided to the committee for each meeting and the minutes of all meetings.

While providing the dates on which the committee met under the chair of Justice Srikrishna, on the request for agenda and minutes of these meetings, it said, “Since the committee is examining all inputs and is involved in the process of preparing the report, it may not be appropriate to provide the presentations requested at this stage without taking the committee into confidence, as this may interfere with the functioning.”

It is to be noted that the Centre had constituted a committee of experts to deliberate on data protection framework for India under the chairmanship of former Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna. The committee had solicited a white paper to solicit comments from members of public on issue of data protection.

Bhardwaj had by way of another RTI plea sought number of comments/submissions received in response to the white paper and the records containing views of the committee on comments received in response to the white paper.

The government informed that the committee has 8,450 responses but refused to share the submissions received in response to the white paper.

“The submissions made to the committee by an individual/agency/company is confidential, and meant  for examination by the committee only also are not available for public dissemination without the explicit consent of the individual/agency/company,” it said in the response.

Another RTI activist Amrita Johri had also moved RTI application seeking copy of various presentations made in the meeting of the committee of experts, including the presentation of right to privacy by Arghya Sengupta. The same was denied too.

Bhardwaj said, “The department has denied copies of presentations made during meetings of committee, minutes of meetings and submissions in response to the White Paper on data protection. Information can be denied under the RTI Act only if it is exempt under the RTI Act as specified in Section 8 or 9 of the Act. However, the department has not invoked any of the legal exemptions.”