Digital Personal Data Protection Bill
The Union Cabinet’s approval of the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, scheduled for tabling in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament, has sparked concerns.
GS-02 (Government Policies and intervention)
GS-03 (Cyber security)
- Digital Personal Data Protection Bill
- Right to Privacy
- Puttaswamy Judgement
- Data Protection Laws of Other Nations
- Analyze the impact of the proposed Digital Personal Data Protection Bill on the Indian citizen’s right to information and its potential consequences for democracy. (150 words)
Dimensions of the Article:
- The Power of Right to Information (RTI) Act
- Embracing the RTI
- Misused Exemption: Section 8(1)(j)
- The Threat of the Data Protection Bill
The Power of Right to Information (RTI) Act:
- The Indian Right to Information (RTI) Act, a pinnacle of transparency laws, has empowered citizens since its implementation on October 12, 2005.
- It emerged as a result of tireless struggles led by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, originating in rural Rajasthan and culminating in the law’s drafting in 2004. Crafted with meticulous deliberation by an all-party parliamentary committee, the RTI Act embodies the essence of democracy by recognizing the importance of informed citizens and transparent governance.
- This harmonious blend of an efficient government and democratic values has made the RTI Act an indispensable tool for the people of India.
Embracing the RTI:
- Governments and those in positions of power have been unsettled by the empowerment the RTI Act bestows upon ordinary citizens.
- The ease with which citizens have embraced the RTI Act has posed a challenge for public officials who attempt to deny legitimate information requests.
- Despite these obstacles, many citizens have wielded this democratic instrument to unveil corruption and malpractices.
- The Act stipulates that citizens have the right to access almost all government information, with only ten carefully outlined categories of exemptions (Section 8(1) a to j) to prevent potential harm or disruptions to government operations.
Misused Exemption: Section 8(1)(j):
- Of the exemptions, Section 8(1)(j) has been a subject of widespread misuse. This provision exempts personal information not related to public activity or infringing on an individual’s privacy.
- The law, however, presents an acid test to establish exemption validity: ‘Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.’ This proviso asserts that personal information can be exempted only if it fails to pass scrutiny before the highest legislative bodies.
- Unfortunately, some refusals of information misuse this provision, with public officials denying access without proper justification.
The Threat of the Data Protection Bill:
- Alarming concerns have emerged with the proposed Data Protection Bill, particularly regarding the amendment of Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.
- The amendment seeks to broaden the scope of exempted personal information, potentially allowing the denial of any information associated with an individual.
- If implemented, this amendment could pave the way for a right to deny information for Public Information Officers (PIOs).
- Any information could be linked to an individual or entity under the bill’s broad definition of ‘person,’ rendering the RTI Act a mere façade of its original intent.
To uphold the democratic principles enshrined in the Right to Information Act and protect the citizen’s right to access vital information, it is crucial to address the potential threats posed by the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill. Balancing data protection concerns with the need for transparency and citizen empowerment should be the focal point of any legislative action in this domain.