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Madras High Court Directs CIC To Expeditiously Decide Appeal Seeking Information On Personal Data Protection Bill

Akshita Saxena
11 Feb 2021 4:45 PM GMT
Madras High Court Directs CIC To Expeditiously Decide Appeal Seeking Information On Personal Data Protection Bill
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The Madras High Court has directed the Central Information Commission to expeditiously dispose of an appeal filed against non-supply of some information pertaining to the Central Government's Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019. A Single Bench of Justice M. Govindaraj directed the CIC to dispose of the appeal within one month, if the Bill is going to be placed before the Parliament in...

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The Madras High Court has directed the Central Information Commission to expeditiously dispose of an appeal filed against non-supply of some information pertaining to the Central Government's Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.

A Single Bench of Justice M. Govindaraj directed the CIC to dispose of the appeal within one month, if the Bill is going to be placed before the Parliament in the ongoing Budget Session.

The Judge further stated that if the Bill will be presented in the next session of Parliament, in that case the appeal may be disposed of in not later than two months.

The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 aims to safeguard the privacy of Indian citizens, and proposes to establish a Data Protection Authority for the same. It was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 11, 2019, and is presently under consideration of the Joint Parliamentary Committee.

Recently, the Lok Sabha extended the time for submission of the Committee's report till the first week of the second part of the ongoing Budget session, i.e. till March 14. Thus, there is no clarity as to whether the Bill (along with Committee's recommendations) will be presented before the Parliament in this session.

It may be noted that former Supreme Court Judge, Justice BN Srikrishna, who chaired the Committee that studied issues regarding the regulation of data protection, has expressed concerns over the proposed PDP Bill.

The Committee had drafted the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018. However, a revised version was approved by the Cabinet Ministry in 2019 as the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, and this has come under criticism from proponents of Right to Privacy, with Justice Srikrishna stating that it had the ability to turn India into an "Orwellian State".

Government Powers Under The Data Protection Bill, 2019: A Critical Analysis

"Unfortunately, in my opinion, Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 has watered down this provision which allow the State to unilaterally infringe the Fundamental Right to Privacy in the name of sovereignty and security. Hopefully, the 32 wise men in Delhi will ensure that this right is not infringed. The State can take away your rights, only if it can ensure that it is doing so for the greater good of the public," he had remarked recently.

In the case at hand, journalist Saurav Das had filed a RTI application with the CPIO, National E-Governance Division (NeGD), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) seeking some information with respect to the provisions of the Bill.

He stated that he wants to make his objections in the Bill after getting information about the same.

On August 31, 2020, the concerned CPIO refused to provide any information and stated that all such documents are confidential.

Subsequently, Das filed an appeal before the First Appellate Authority which was also dismissed; and the Second Appeal before the Union Ministry is pending till date. Thereafter, he approached the CIC seeking an urgent hearing. However, the request was not acceded to. Hence, the instant writ proceedings were initiated.

On a perusal of the facts and circumstances of the case, the single Judge ordered,

"if the Bill is going to be placed in the ongoing session, the first respondent is directed to dispose of the Second Appeal within a period of one month from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. If the Bill is going to be placed in the next session, the Second Appeal shall be disposed of within a period of two months from the date of receipt of a copy this order."

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