Warning against government agencies access to users data, Justice BN Srikrishna has said that Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill exempting govt’s agencies from its provisions could turn India into an Orwellian state, where people of a state have less right over themselves and are controlled by draconian laws.
“They have removed the safeguards. The government can at any time access private data or government agency data on grounds of sovereignty or public order. This has dangerous implications,” said an ET report quoting Justice Srikrishna, a retired judge of India’s Supreme Court.
The Centre could get access to personal data citing national security and public order. Though it will be subject to procedures, safeguards and oversight mechanism of the respective agency, the report added.
In July 2017, the Srikrishna Committee was established to form a comprehensive report on data protection. In Nov 2017, a white paper was released, which suggested the need for a framework to help protect Indian citizens’ data.
In July 2018, a panel chaired by Justice Srikrishna had submitted its data protection report to the government.
Post the approval of the Union Cabinet last week, the new bill was shared with members of parliament on December 11. The new bill referred to a joint select committee of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, where it faced strong protests from the Opposition.
The select committee has the right to change the contentious clause. Justice Srikrishna told ET that if he is called by the committee, he will suggest judicial oversight on government access.
The PDP bill, which is drafted to empower citizens with control over their personal data, is the first step towards privacy framework of personal data of users.
The former top court judge said that the draft bill was prepared through an open process where they consulted stakeholders in the major information technology hubs – Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad in India.
After the release of the bill, the draft has been through extensive inter-ministerial consultation.