11 April 2023 6:52 AM GMT
A 5-Judge Bench comprising Justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar took note of the submission of the Attorney General that the Bill that would address all the concerns raised in the present petitions will be tabled during the monsoon session. Moreover, it is pertinent to note that two judges of the existing Bench (Justice Joseph and Justice Rastogi) are to retire in June, 2023. Considering the circumstance, the Bench directed the registry to place the matter before the Hon’ble CJI so that a Constitution Bench can be constituted afresh, preferably in the first week of August, 2023.
At the outset, the AG informed the Bench, “The Bill is ready. It just has to be introduced in the Parliament. It will be introduced in the Monsoon session in July…I may be considered after that.”
Senior Advocate, Mr. Shyam Divan appearing on behalf of the petitioner opposed stating that the Bench ought not to link the court hearings to the legislative process, which is a complex process and can cause inordinate delay. He submitted that when the matter came up for hearing for the first time, the Bench was apprised that the Bill would be introduced in the Winter Session of the Parliament, but that did not happen.
The Attorney General refuted Mr. Divan’s argument by submitting, “The consultation process is a continuous process so it went through a very qualified consultation process.”
When the matter was listed in September, 2022, the Solicitor General, Mr. Tushar Mehta, had informed the Bench that the Data Protection Bill introduced in the Parliament had been withdrawn and a comprehensive Bill was underway. In view of the same, he had beseeched the Bench to hear the matter after the Bill had been put in place. Considering Centre’s statement that a Bill relating to personal data protection is being prepared, the Bench had adjourned the hearing to January, 2023. As the matter came up for hearing in January, 2023, the Bench was informed that a Data Protection Bill is to be introduced before the Parliament in the second half of the Budget Session, 2023. Senior Advocate, Mr. Kapil Sibal appearing on behalf of Meta-WhatsApp implored the Bench to take up the matter once the Bill is introduced. The Bench decided to adjourn the matter till 1st February, 2023 and then take a call whether the matter needs to be heard further or it needs to await the introduction of the Bill in the Parliament. In February, 2023, the AG flagged the same concerns that the Solicitor General of India, Mr. Tushar Mehta, had expressed on the previous occasion. He was afraid that the Court’s deliberations on the draft Bill, might orient the debate in the Parliament. Informing the Bench that the Bill subject to getting approval from the Cabinet is intended to be presented in the second half of the Budget Session, i.e., between 13th March, 2023 and 6th April, 2023, he sought the Court’s indulgence to postpone the hearing till then. Mr. Sibal supported the submissions made by the AG. Thereafter, the matter was stood over until April, 2023.
[Case Title: Karmanya Singh Sareen And Anr. v. Union of India And Ors. SLP(C) 804/2017]
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